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Global Health Students study Indigenous Medicine at the Chile Global Health Field School

This past summer, 6 UC San Diego Global Health students immersed themselves in the Chilean culture and health care system by participating in the Chile Global Health Field School, a 7 week program, in collaboration with the UC San Diego Global Health Program and Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile (PUC) in Santiago.

The Chile Field School focuses on primary care health centers in under-served and indigenous communities in both Santiago, Chile and the small town of Lampa, providing the perfect setting for Global Health students to fulfill their major or minor field experience requirement.

Students studied side by side with PUC students and observed the role of socioeconomic and political change in determining health outcomes firsthand.  UC San Diego students also participated in a Spanish immersion language workshop to enhance their experience.

Global Health major, Natalie Wyss shared, “This program offered a wonderful opportunity for me to grow not only as a global health student, but also as an individual. It brought up a lot of questions on indigenous health in our own culture within native populations, that made me want to learn more.

The highlight of the program is when students spent two weeks doing exploratory field research in Lampa. Students examined the meanings of health and illness in both private and traditional medicine health care systems while addressing the differences and similarities between under-developed and developed countries.  Program Coordinator, Dr. Paula Saravia, guided students in conducting participant observations, short, open-ended interviews, and a health survey in Lampa. They learned the essential aspects of Mapuche medicine (and other indigenous traditions of Latin America) and healing rituals. During that time they participated in Mapuche medicine workshops at the Melilawen Mapuche Health Care Center that were guided by a Mapuche medic.

At the conclusion of the program, students were involved in writing a collective report based on their research, which was then delivered at the University on September 15th during a symposium to the local organizations involved.  Some of the specific issues that students observed and analyzed were depression, mental health, domestic violence, alcoholism, lack of access to medicine and resources, and isolation.

Lauren Olson, Global Health major, found in her research and conversation with the local healer that their beliefs consist of “three different types of welfare: ‘be well, live well and die well.’ In this health care system this philosophy is applied to ensure that people may be able to live with and control their illnesses in the hopes of meeting a peaceful end.

Overall, students walked away with a deeper understanding of the components that affect healthcare, like culture and beliefs, as well as intercultural health interventions.

Upon her return, another student who is a Global Health minor, Daisy Ojeda, expressed, “I am grateful I was able to take advantage of the experience and meet other students and notice the adversities many people face in order to receive health care. Also [I am grateful to understand] the notion of alternative medicine vs. traditional medicine.”

Trina Amog, Global Health minor, shared, “This is such a rewarding program; it really makes you fall in love with Chile. I learned a great deal from my UCSD and PUC peers, instructors, and my home-stay family.

The Global Health Field Experience is designed to engage the mind, hands, and heart to create a learning outcome that is scientific, pragmatic, and humanistic and the Chile Field School has done just that. Keep a look out for info on future Chile Global Health Field Schools on the Global Health Program Website!

Program Coordinator: Paula F. Saravia, Ph.D, Pontifica Universidad Católica de Chile

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