Division of Infectious Diseases

Going Global – Supporting UNMC & Los Chavalitos in Nicaragua

Dr. Florescu will be joining an upcoming medical service trip to Los Chavalitos clinic in Managua, Nicaragua, sponsored by UNMC’s Student Alliance for Global Health.

Los Chavalitos Clinic is the outreach of APUSAN, a Spanish acronym meaning “Association of Pediatricians United for the Health of the Children.”  APUSAN was founded by a small group of ambitious young Nicaraguan medical residents in the early 1990s.  The doctors, who saw a multitude of children in advanced stages of diarrhea in the emergency departments of the hospital where they worked, knew that diarrhea can be prevented and should not be a major cause of childhood death, as it was in Nicaragua (and in many underdeveloped countries).  They knew that education of the parents was the key to prevention and they formed APUSAN, a legal corporation in Nicaragua.  However, they had no funding to put their dreams of preventive measures into action.  Through unpredictable, but fortuitous circumstances,  UNO social work professor on sabbatical in Nicaragua, learned of the aspirations of the APUSAN physicians and engaged her Rotary Club back in Omaha to support the mission of the Nicaraguan MDs.  One of the Rotary members brought the cause to his Omaha church, Countryside Community Church.  Subsequently, between the active support of the district Rotary Clubs and Countryside Community Church, a small structure in an impoverished Managua community was purchased and Los Chavalitos (“little kids”) Clinic opened in 1994.  From the beginning, and to this day, the front of the building has both the Rotary Club emblem on it and the words “Countryside Community Church” emblazoned on it.  It is truly an “Omaha” product in the heart of this Nicaraguan capitol city, Managua.  There is no government funding and the clinic provides primarily free care, with a small proportion of patients paying on a sliding scale.  Private donations sustain the clinic on an ongoing basis.

UNMC began sending individual student volunteers to work at Los Chavalitos in 1995 and the first SAGH-sponsored medical service trip took place in Nicaragua in 1996, with 13 participants.  UNMC has offered the service trips to Nicaragua annually since 2000.  The SAGH medical service trips, which also take place in Jamaica and a Native American Reservation, have grown in student participation since the first trip.  Twenty-two years there will be 41 UNMC students in Nicaragua participating in one-week SAGH medical service trips.  Of these 41 students, nine of them will be based in Managua, volunteering under the auspices of the Los Chavalitos medical director.  Every day the group will go into the neighborhoods served by Los Chavalitos and establish “puestos” (posts) in one of these communities – perhaps the home of a community leader, a school, or a church, and provide immunization services to the community members, and will also offer vitamin A, anti-parasite pills, and fluoride treatments.  The presence of the UNMC group is well-publicized in advance, so that the community members can plan to take advantage of the free services offered, which have been approved by the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health (and it is the government who provides the vaccines that the group uses).  Four of the student members are physical therapy students, who will spend part of their time serving in other sites with a geriatric population and severely handicapped children.

The UNMC students (from medicine, nursing, pharmacy and allied health) volunteering through Los Chavalitos typically serve up to 1000 patients during their service week.  All of these activities take place in community locations (not on the clinic premises), which eliminates the need for client transportation (requiring both time and money) to receive valuable services.  The student participants see/experience first-hand the living conditions of a poor population and have ample opportunity to directly interact with the local personnel.  It is a valuable lesson in cross-cultural communication and demonstrates the value of serving the under-served.

To donate to help fund the upcoming SAGH Nicaragua medical service trip (to help defray trip expenses):  cash or check (payable to SAGH/UNMC and put SAGH Nicaragua on the bottom left corner of the check.  Please send to the attention of Sara Pirtle at campus zip 5700, or mail to the address below.

To donate to directly assist Los Chavalitos with their community outreach and clinical services, cash or check payable to SAGH/UNMC and note “Los Chavalitos” on the bottom left corner of the check.  Please send to the attention of Sara Pirtle at campus zip 5700, or mail to the address below.

 

985700 Nebraska Medical Center

Omaha, NE  68198-5700

 

Content courtesy of Sara E. Pirtle, MBA

IHME Program Manager

SAGH Advisor

402 559 2924

www.unmc.edu/ihme


 

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