Official Blog of the Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

13th year for the UW-Madison Summer Field School’s Study of Language, Culture and Community Health in Ecuador Program

by Bette Benson (LACIS Social Media/Outreach Intern, BA, LACIS, Pol Sci, & Intl Stud ’15)

Group Photo from Mountaintop, Zuleta

For the thirteenth year in a row, LACIS has co-sponsored the UW Summer Field School for the Study of Language, Culture and Community Health in Ecuador. The 2105 Field School included seven students and three faculty (Frank Hutchins (Ph.D., Adjunct Associate Professor, UW School of Pharmacy, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Bellarmine University), Keith Poulsen (Clinical Assistant Professor in the Medical Sciences Department at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine, and Corinne McKittrick (2010 graduate from the UW- Madison School of Veterinary Medicine). This unique study abroad experience provides field and classroom study of languages, culture, and community-based health care in the Andean and Amazonian regions of Ecuador for an interdisciplinary group of UW health science students. In this four-week immersion opportunity, students study Spanish and cross-cultural issues relating to health care in a developing country. Students will learn valuable language skills and will examine the complex cultural, ecological, socioeconomic, political and biomedical factors influencing human and animal health in the Andean and Coastal regions of Ecuador. The Field School course is offered for three credits through the UW Department of Population Health Sciences.

Healing Ceremony at Peguche Waterfall

Activities included a tour of Colonial Quito, 5-day Amazon trip, Medicinal plant hike in the rainforest with native Quichua guide, Visit to indigenous family to discuss health issues, Explore Otavalo, staying with a host family, visit to Inuca family & local healer in Pijal, Animal Health and Diabetes/Blood Pressure workshops, and of course Spanish classes!

Frank Hutchins has written up a report of the four weeks, the following are his notes on the Animal Health and Diabetes/Blood Pressure workshops:

Diabetes/Blood Pressure workshops: There were two objectives here: 1) do blood glucose and blood pressure tests for anyone interested, offering them information about their numbers and where they can go for follow-up, and 2) present educational information about health issues related to these topics. We had two local nurses join our group for this. Their primary responsibility was to discuss health issues with those who came in for the exams. Students with experience in these areas did the blood glucose exams and the blood pressure readings. The materials to do these were collected by Dr. Hutchins at the Supplies Overseas warehouse in Louisville. Between the mornings of June 12 and 13, we had about 60 people show up for the mini-clinic. We considered this a significant turnout, as we weren’t sure what to expect. Many people stayed around to ask questions about their numbers, which were almost exclusively in the positive ranges.

Animal health clinic: This has been carried out in La Calera for several years. It involved some health education activities, and various vaccinations and injections for cattle, pigs, and sheep. Students took turns filling syringes and giving injections. We treated a total of 126 cows, about 10 pigs, and several sheep and dogs. For the cows, we gave anti-parasite medicine and the foot and mouth vaccine, which is part of a national campaign. The number of cows we injected was beyond our average for this activity.

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In addition to his report, Professor Hutchins shared the following with me, “This year we had a particularly special experience with Rosa Colta, an indigenous midwife who works in the birth unit at the hospital where we spend much of our time in Ecuador. I’ve known Rosa for several years, and admire her energy and knowledge, especially regarding medicinal plants and vertical birthing. This summer we arranged for Rosa to perform a cleansing ceremony for our group. One Sunday morning she led us to Peguche Waterfall, long a sacred site for indigenous people. She brought along fruit, incense, scented water and a number of items she believes carry positive energy. She led students to the base of the waterfall so it could remove negative energy and fill them with positive energy. She then cleansed each of us with eggs, scented water, and smoke. It was a wonderful way for the students to step inside native medicine, and I think we all felt lighter afterwards.”

Sounds like a wonderful experience for all! To learn more about studying abroad in Ecuador through this program, including per-requisites and cost estimates, visit IAP’s page here.