WHO ARE WE?
Physician assistant students and licensed clinicians from Central Florida have been traveling to the region of Alta Verapaz, Guatemala for the past 6 years to provide medical support and health care to members of a unique indigenous community called the Poqomchi. During the first semester of the 2014 school year, PA students at a Florida-based program began seeking ways to give back to the global health community. After a year of planning, the first class of students traveled with one professor, one preceptor, and 20 students to participate in their first mission trip in conjunction with AVIS/Living to Serve. Having spent only a week in the country, we knew it would be a place we'd never forget. We were captivated by the people, the generosity, and the gratitude. In the years that followed, we continued coming each August to serve with larger groups and more experience and diversity among the team. In 2019, we brought 31 students and 15 licensed clinicians. This past June, we formed our own non-profit in order to provide access to more sustainable healthcare year-round through various initiatives. The main project is currently the construction of a multi-specialty medical and surgical clinic in this region that will provide low-cost and free care to the patients will already treat each year. Our organization is called Hands of Esperanza, which literally means "hands of hope." Beyond medicine and health education, we aim to provide the people that we serve with hope; hope for a better tomorrow.
The patient population in this region includes descendants from a Mayan culture called the Poqomchi'. They live in remote villages spread out among the mountain ranges here that require hiking to and from their communities each day in order to reach them to set up rural clinics annually. Otherwise, they have limited access to basic medical care. Our group is able to see and treat approximately 500 patients in just one week. Patients range in age from newborn to geriatric. We are committed to implementing sustainable projects aside from our annual mission trip, including our newest project to build a multi-specialty medical and surgical clinic to support this patient population throughout the year.
WHO DO WE SERVE?
WHAT DOES OUR TEAM LOOK LIKE?
PHYSICIAN ASST. STUDENTS
Each year physician assistant students who have completed their 15-month didactic semester provide care to approximately 500 Guatemalan patients in rural communities under the supervision of licensed clinicians. Fundraising efforts and the annual Shark Stride 5K are all student-driven in the year leading up to the annual mission trip. This is a unique experience for these students to first practice medicine after months of studying and training to become medical practitioners.
A group of licensed clinicians in a variety of specialties provide supervision and oversight to the PA students as they treat this underserved and vulnerable patient population. Our clinician group consists of physician assistants, pharmacists, physicians, nurse practitioners, paramedics, nurses, and dentists. We are always looking for volunteers in any specialty, please fill out the "Contact" box below for more information if you are interested in joining us or starting your own mission trip!
We are fortunate to partner with some amazing local Guatemalans that support our organization and clinic efforts. Not only are they spearheading the clinic construction initiative, but they provide us with the means to organize patients in the areas that we provide rural clinics to annually. They also provide translators for both Spanish and Poqomchi', a challenging part of practicing medicine in this area. It is important to incorporate local organizations in order to build relationships and foster trust among the communities we are treating. Click on "The Team" link for more information.
PA students from Nova Southeastern University started looking for ways to serve the global health community. Five years later, the sixth class of students is preparing to return to Guatemala, and we are building a clinic to provide more sustainable healthcare.