SCU Public Health Student Completes Internship in Health Post
Rachel Hannigan, a master’s degree candidate in Public Health at St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul, Minnesota, recently spent five weeks in Carmen Pampa. She worked with UAC-CP Nursing students and medical practitioners in the community’s health center.
Nora Harless: What were your expectations upon arriving to Carmen Pampa? How were those expectations challenged?
Rachel Hannigan: I had been to Ecuador before, so I was prepared for the altitude and aspects of the Andean culture, particularly in and around La Paz. I had pictures of the health clinic and the surrounding area, so I felt well prepared for my workplace environment, but some of the cultural norms took me by surprise. For example, I didn’t expect people to walk so far in a single day! On our community site visits, we walked six miles to vaccinate community members.
NH: What has your work largely consisted of during your time at the UAC?
RH: A variety of things. Mostly interacting with community members, identify health concerns through questioning and documentation. Also, assisting with the Nursing Program at the university, and observing how the health care system works here in Bolivia, in comparison to that in the United States.
NH: What are some challenges that you have faced in your work here?
RH: Adjusting to how time is perceived here. Details and specifics are more relaxed than in the U.S. Times and dates are more improvised, which required me to go with the flow a bit more in my work. Also adjusting to not seeing my family every day, being away from home for one of the first times, particularly with the language barrier. Communication is difficult, and is only made more so when Spanish is the primary language spoken by everyone around me.
NH: How has your time working in communities within rural Bolivia informed your understanding of global public health?
RH: It’s incredible how many are able to live off the bare minimum, but are able to live and subside without many of the basic resources we take for granted. It’s also incredible how connected everyone is – I could ask someone in a village miles away where an individual lives, and they could give me step-by-step directions on how to get to their house. It’s very different from people in the United States, who often don’t even know their own next-door neighbors.
NH: If you had to give one piece of advice for someone coming to live and work in Carmen Pampa, what would it be?
RH: Be ready for your plan to change. It will, and it’s easier to go with the flow than to try to stick to what you thought you were going to be doing. And eat at the “pollos al spiedo” chicken place by the Carmen Pampa stop in Coroico.