Brent Reame and Claire Lelli, graduates from Biomedical Science and Business, led a group of 12 students from various health related fields to study naturopathic medicine in Nicaragua in August 2009. The group studied for a week at Naturopathic Doctors International, learning specifics about herbal remedies, acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic manipulations, hydrotherapy and other traditional therapies. They also delivered medical supplies to and spent time in rural health clinics.
Both Lelli and Reame participated in previous trips to Nicaragua Esteli Innovation project, which is an umbrella for seven Grand Valley initiatives in Nicaragua. Esteli Innovation provides international opportunities for students, faculty and community members, pursuing initiatives based on the expressed needs and desires of the Nicaraguan people.
Lelli first visited Nicaragua in May 2008, working with engineering students from two universities in Nicaragua on ecotourism and coffee distribution. Reame visited as part of a December 2008 trip that focused on projects and the process of innovation, working with students from Nicaragua universities as well. The second major focus of his trip was to better understand the water quality problem of the country.
Reame called the naturopathic medicine course was "a life-changing adventure."
"I remember sitting in a rural clinic between two doctors who were each treating patients. We were surrounded by fellow Grand Valley health science students intently observing, writing notes, and asking questions about each case. We were actually applying the lessons we learned the prior day and truly experiencing what health care is like at the lowest part of the socioeconomic spectrum," Reame said.
Lelli said the experience was illuminating. "As students pursuing careers in health care, observing in the Nicaraguan clinics was a very eye-opening experience," she said. "We were able to see so many health conditions that here in the United States are easily treated; the unavailability of resources in Nicaragua make what we consider standard health care extremely difficult for many to obtain."
Entirely student-organized and led, the trip included 12 students from biomedical sciences, nursing and health sciences, along with and three faculty members — Paul Lane from Seidman College of Business, John Farris from Padnos College of Engineering and Computing, and Anne Marie Fauvel from the College of Interdisciplinary Studies.
"We spent class time under an open tiki hut, visited hospital and clinic rotations, and worked in the yucca fields. In the process, we got a taste for the living conditions and the health care situation at the bottom of the economic pyramid," said Fauvel.
"We spent one morning in the field hoeing around the precious yucca plants and finished exhausted after clearing two rows each," said Fauvel. "Most Nicaraguans would have cleared 10 rows for a mere $3 for the day. We were shocked at how much hard work is involved in these people's daily lives, for so little income."
Lelli is currently working on a master's degree in health science, investigating Nicaraguan clinics for possible Grand Valley Physician Assisting International Clinical rotation sites. As part of her research, she collected a daily journal from each student on the trip. Reame is currently working for a life-science industry consulting firm. He is also an entrepreneur working on two start-up companies.
A 2010 trip has been set for August 6-15.