Global health

‘Osteopathic medicine can definitely make an impact here’: DOCARE volunteers provide care in Guatemala

Physicians, dentists, nurses, midwives and pharmacists were among the volunteers on DOCARE’s two-week global health outreach project.

On a sunny day in early March, the leafy convent courtyard in San Andrés Itzapa, Guatemala, was abuzz with activity. The convent was hosting a health care clinic organized by DOCARE International. Amid the sounds of conversation, birdsong and children playing, an interprofessional team of volunteers provided care for local patients, treating nearly 600 people during the clinic’s first day.

“Osteopathic medicine is a great fit for Guatemala,” says AOA President John W. Becher, DO, who participated in DOCARE’s recent outreach trip along with more than 100 volunteers, including AOA CEO Adrienne White-Faines, MPA.

For White-Faines, seeing the integration of team-based care was one of the highlights of the experience. “Our DOCARE volunteers include not only osteopathic physicians and students, but also dentists, nurses and nurse practitioners, podiatrists, midwives, pharmacists and optometrists,” she notes. “This team approach can really address some of the complex needs of the populations. Together, there’s a camaraderie within the team and with the patient to support the whole person, and appreciate the influence of the family as well—it’s a wonderful and effective experience all around.”

Travels in Guatemala

During the trip, DOCARE held health care clinics in medically underserved areas in the central part of the country.

DOCARE emphasizes continuity of care, so patients who needed follow-up care were referred to one of the organization’s two permanent clinics in Guatemala, which are located west of Guatemala’s capital in San Andrés Itzapa and Tecpán Guatemala. DOCARE’s permanent clinics are staffed by local doctors and nurses; the clinics offer four-week global health rotations for osteopathic medical students and residents.

Osteopathic fit

Dr. Becher says the visit opened his eyes to the lack of access to care in central Guatemala. DOCARE’s clinics are poised to make a real difference in their communities, he notes.

“There are over 4 million people in the Guatemala City area and about 90,000 living in Tecpán Guatemala, where DOCARE’s new continuity of care clinic is located,” he says. “Most of those people don’t have much access to primary care, so osteopathic medicine can definitely make an impact here.”

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