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Centro Medico Susan Hou - Palacios, Bolivia

Feinberg School of Medicine medical students may apply to complete a four-to-eight-week rotation for elective credit in International Health at the free outpatient clinic located in Palacios, Bolivia, about 90 kilometers from Santa Cruz. Students and residents will be exposed to an environment that lacks the technical advances they may be accustomed to in the U.S. and will develop skills and knowledge on infectious diseases not generally encountered in the U.S. Rotations may also be made at the municipal hospital and another nearby clinic in Santa Cruz. A high level of Spanish fluency is required.

  • Dates: M4s may apply to visit the clinic at any time during the year. M1s may visit during the summer months, space permitting
  • Length of rotation: Four to eight weeks
  • Location: Palacios, Bolivia
  • Language requirement: Intermediate fluency in Spanish
  • Student level: M1s (summer only) and M4s
  • How to apply: Complete the online application

Elective Credit

Students may apply to receive credit for the elective in International Health. Beyond the goals of the elective rotation described below, students are required to prepare a 10-to-15-minute health education lecture in Spanish that will be presented a minimum of two times to clinic attendings, staff and visiting medical students and residents. Students will also be required to work on an independent study project, assigned from a list developed by clinic administrators. The project often involves designing a new protocol or updating public health programs for the clinic and the local community. Examples include projects on pediatric dental health, colon cancer screening, Chagas screening and treatment protocols, obesity/exercise program and health promoter program. The expectation is that students will do a brief literature review before the rotation begins, complete the project on site and submit a four-to-six-page recommendation to the clinic administrator before departure.

Goals of Elective Credit

  • Provide exposure to diseases not generally encountered during U.S. medical training
  • Develop medical skills necessary to practice in a setting that lacks many technological advances
  • Provide a cross-cultural medical experience beyond what is possible in the U.S.
  • Allow students and residents to develop and nourish their sense of altruism
  • Expose students and physicians early in their careers, to the possibilities of working in the developing world and/or underserved populations
  • Understand the interaction between health and social, cultural and environmental issues

Rotation Information

Medical students generally spend Wednesday through Saturday at the Centro Medico Susan Hou clinic, which was founded in 2001 and is funded by the Daniels Hamant Foundation. It is located 90 kilometers from Santa Cruz, the largest city in Bolivia. This free clinic serves an area with about 40,000 people and allows for the greatest amount of continuity of care possible, as follow-up is a major focus of effort. The clinic has two regular examination rooms, an infirmary/treatment room, a class room, a dental suite and an ophthalmology room. It has a small pharmacy, a storage area and a small laboratory that is capable of doing routine chemistries and urinalyses. An electrocardiogram machine is also available as well as cellular telephone and internet access via satellite. It is staffed by two full-time nurses and by rotating Bolivian and American doctors who supervise students and residents. Douglas Villarroel, MD, is the on-site director.

Affiliated Faculty

  • Mark E. Molitch, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Molecular Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois
    Susan H. Hou, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of Nephrology, Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood, Illinois
    Douglas Villarroel, MD, Adjunct Professor of Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine; Professor of Medicine, Universidad Católica Boliviana, Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Helpful Links

Accommodations

Students and residents will be met at the airport by a representative of Centro Medico Susan Hou, in the clinic's four-wheel-drive vehicle. They will stay at the home of Molitch and Hou while in Santa Cruz and in the visiting doctors' and students' quarters at the clinic. All housing is multiple occupancy rooms with air-conditioning and costs approximately $125 per week, which includes a select number of meals.

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