A devoted group of students from Fanshawe College's Respiratory Therapy program are heading south next month on a medical mission trip.
From June 10 to 17, a team of 14 students and four faculty members will stay in La Antigua Guatemala, providing medical care in surrounding rural communities. Fanshawe students will be put to work in a pediatric vaccination clinic, a senior centre, an urgent care unit, and a family clinic that offers dental care.
The time spent in Guatemala will be considered part of the students’ clinical placement.
This opportunity is rather new to third-year students in Fanshawe’s Respiratory Therapy program, thanks to a recent partnership with Maximo Nivel - an organization that specializes in education abroad.
Yvonne Drasovean, professor and clinical liaison for the college’s School of Health Sciences, said the inaugural trip was in 2019, but the trips have since been on hold due to the pandemic.
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“The  trip proved to be a transformative experience, with each of us gaining invaluable knowledge and making cherished memories,” Drasovean shared. “Above all, we realized that our actions carry weight beyond our immediate communities and that we bear a responsibility to foster the common good on a global scale. Our connections with the local healthcare providers in Guatemala remain strong, and we eagerly anticipate the opportunity to reunite with them and guide a new group of students through this enriching experience once again.”
This year’s cohort has been preparing for the trip since January, holding multiple fundraisers, improving their Spanish skills, and familiarizing themselves with foreign medical terminology. They have also been conducting research on the barriers faced by Guatemala’s healthcare system and the impact COVID-19 had on the country.
While preparing for the mission trip, many of these students are simultaneously doing online classes and working 12-hour shifts at hospitals throughout southwestern Ontario. Drasovean believes this demonstrates their commitment to the future of respiratory therapy.
“Living in a multicultural country, we encounter patients from diverse backgrounds, speaking different languages, and facing communication challenges in our healthcare practice,” she said. “Our aim is to provide our students with a unique perspective by immersing them in an environment where they will encounter language barriers and witness a healthcare system distinct from the one they are accustomed to in Canada.”
The final fundraiser, “Gala for Guatemala,” is being held on Friday night at The Chef’s Table. Registration for the event is now closed.
Drasovean said the dinner gala was made possible by Fanshawe’s Outreach and Events Facilitator Kellen Gedies, faculty member Colin Hill, and students of the School of Tourism, Hospitality, and Culinary Arts.
Some of the costs associated with the trip are being covered by local sponsors Trudell Medical and Proresp, as well as Fanshawe College, and the Global Skills Opportunity Program - part of Canada's International Education Strategy.
In May 2023, Drasovean and colleagues presented at the Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists’s national conference in PEI. They shared their experience and future plans with medical professionals from across the country in hopes of promoting similar projects to other universities and colleges.