One Year. One Physical Therapist in Trujillo, Peru.

Combining passions of global public health with travel and cultural immersion... With the help of the Catholic Medical Mission Board, I was afforded the opportunity to live outside of Trujillo, Peru for one year's time (2010-2011). Check out old posts about my experiences as a PT working in hospitals, a school, an outpatient clinic, doing research/community based rehabilitation, and a little teaching too. And my experiences with an entire calendar year of holidays, cultural customs and new culinary experiences!

I make it back about once a year with university students/CMMB projects, so I will periodically provide updates :)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Back to the Basics

It's been an interesting transition in the last year from life in Peru to life in the US. I feel like I finally got used to our own culture again, when all of a sudden, it was August - time to go back to Peru! I was overjoyed to return to my "second home" and felt much more comfortable this time around with the re-insertion into Peruvian culture - the simple life, or "back to the basics."

The return trip was anything but basic, though - it was more of a two and a half weeks jam-packed with activities and little sleep! (Just the way I like it...) The first few days were filled with emotional reunions with family and friends, plus meetings and preparation for the conference and the Regis group activities. I met the 5 Regis students and professor Nancy Mulligan in Lima, where we began with touring a local hospital and rehabilitation center and met with Dr. Leon and staff at the Peru Ministry of Health.

One overnight bus later, we were touring the Bellavista health outpost and had a very memorable lunch with the focus group "Asumiendo con Esperanza," a group of mothers of children who have disabilities. That evening, Claudia gave us a wonderful welcome dinner and shared her incredible story of how she ended up in Peru. We spent the next day teaming with PT's/PTA's at Hospital Albrecht in outpatient care, and meeting with the director of a local university to make an official partnership with the potential to set up future clinical rotations and student exchanges between ALAS Peruanas and Regis University! The following day we had one-on-one sessions with children in the community, performing initial evaluations and wheelchair fittings, and prepared for the conference.

The 2-day continuing education conference included two separate themes, stroke and cerebral palsy, and featured leaders Ana Herrera, Cindy Potter, and Sarah Ingram, who did a fantastic job in lectures and lab with actual patients! The event's cocktail reception and networking lunches were also a lot of fun!

The following week we jumped right into work with CMMB's project "Rehabilitation con Esperanza," where the group performed home visits and led workshops for caregivers and community agents. Visits to Huanchaco beach for ceviche and surfing, plus a trip to see the local pyramids, gave the group some much needed r+r to finish out the trip! And on our last day we had a pool party for the kids in the project - a day I will never forget!

I can't thank CMMB, Regis University, and my Peruvian focus group enough for making this trip possible! It's very challenging to make a short-term mission trip something that is centered in sustainability and in helping vs. hurting, social justice vs. charity. The continued strengthening of partnerships with local organizations gives me hope that this trip will be something that is bi-annual, self-sustaining, and always with the needs of the community at its heart.

Feeling very blessed to have the opportunity to return to Peru - and the daily duality of two distinct cultures impacting my life. Thrilled to have a few weeks of "back to the basics" - although I won't lie, I was extremely close to "missing" my flight and staying down in Peru for another year!

I recently heard the following quote...

I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve. -Albert Schweitzer

I think that any of our volunteers this year -an amazing group- will attest that this is so true, and I hope that whoever reads this will consider coming down with us next year - or find some other way to get involved in global health! Until next August - Te Amo Perú! Siempre Contigo!

Hospital Loayza - Lima

Instituto Nacional de Rehabilitación - Lima

Perú Ministry of Health - Lima
Health Outpost- Bellavista
Support group: Asumiendo con Esperanza
patient care at Hospital Albrecht - Trujillo
Forming new alliances - with Universidad ALAS Peruanas
PT session with the kids!
Getting creative to transport conference materials!
Segunda Conferencia Internacional de Actualización en Terapia Fisica: Avances en Condiciones Neurologicos
we made the paper!
Cindy's group: Cerebral Palsy
Saturday evening reception with conference participants

Sarah and Ana's group: Stroke
networking luncheon
view of Sector Bellavista, La Esperanza - home of the community based rehab project
with CMMB leaders
home visits!

Pool party!!


Day off: let's go surfing!
Manipulations around the World: Huaca de la Luna!
with the Hermanas del Buen Soccorro who graciously housed us!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Peruvian flavor in Salt Lake City!

As I was hiking this weekend, I just so happened to run into a family of Peruvians on the trail! We started talking, and they informed me that SLC was having a big Peruvian party downtown that very day in honor of Peru's Fiestas Patrias- Independence Day! Before I knew it, I was surrounded by the smells of aji de gallina, picarones, ceviche, and Inca Cola -  and serendaded with some traditional Peruvian music (I am still waiting for my hearing to return to normal) :)

I can't describe how much joy I felt to be reunited with the culture I grew to call my own from the past year. I've had little bits and pieces of Peru flavor trickle into my life here in Utah lately - meeting Peruvian exchange students at my church, bonding with the staff at my new favorite restaurant "Que Rico Peru" on 3rd west and 21st south, browsing "La Pequeñita" market on state street... but the event was a beautiful and unique reminder of the amazing people, food, and traditions of the Peruvian culture. Call me a silly gringa, but I felt like I was "home."

What's even better than a bunch of Peruvians in Salt Lake.. are a bunch of Peruvians in Trujillo!!! Tommorrow I'm headed back to Peru for 3 weeks!

The itinerary includes:
- Regis DPT students service learning trip - we will meet with leaders at the Peru Ministry of Health, tour rehabilitation facilities in Lima and Trujillo, and forge an alliance with local universities in Trujillo
-Field work with Proyecto Rehabilitación con Esperanza - the new community based rehab project is in full swing and we'll be doing home visits with the kids and training sessions with families/caregivers and community health agents
-2nd annual international physical therapy conference - a 2-day continuing education event focusing on physical therapy management of cerebral palsy and stroke
-1 day of tourism and (hopefully!) a little surfing! ;)

But what I'm most excited about is getting to see my family, friends, nuns, mother's in the support group, PT colleagues/coworkers, and old patients!

Special thanks to Sarah Hansford and Cindy Potter for graciously volunteering their time and resources to make the conference happen - Regis University, Nancy Mulligan and Regis DPT students Julie Reagan, Leesa Henderson, Janelle Brown, Ryan Gary, and John Klapheke for all of the teamwork and planning -  St. Catherine of Siena Newman Center community for supporting the fundraising efforts - CMMB and Claudia Llantén for making all of this possible.

Nos vemos prontito Peru!!!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Seeking Donations!

A group of physical therapists and Regis University physical therapy students are seeking equipment donations for an August 2012 continuing education event and community-based rehabilitation project!

Looking for small lightweight rehabilitation type objects to bring down to Peru this year, such as:
-stability balls
-gait belts
-notepads and pens

as well as any Spanish-language physical therapy or public health resources!

Please email if you have any questions, or would like to donate something.

Mail donations by 7/20/12 to:
Nancy Mulligan
Regis University, School of Physical Therapy
3333 Regis Blvd, G-4
Denver, CO 80221


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Photography Fundraiser!

Still looking for the perfect Mother's Day gift? Look no further...

Help support CMMB's efforts in Peru! I'm doing a fundraiser for CMMB's project "Rehabilitación con Esperanza" on Sunday, May 13th (Mother's Day!) - see information below. (If you don't live in SLC but are interested in seeing/ordering some of the prints, please let me know! Email:

When: Sunday, May 13th, 2012
Where: St. Catherine of Siena Newman Center
            170 University Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84102
Hours: 8:30am-12:30pm and 7:00pm-9:00pm
The Goods: Photography - matted, framed and non-framed, and select images on canvas - a wide array of sizes and scenes ranging from Peru to Alaska, Southern Utah to Tuscany! Special thanks to photographer Fred Walker for his numerous beautiful donations!

About "Rehabilitación con Esperanza"
Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB) began a new Community-Based Rehabilitation project in 2011 targeting a population with disabilities. “Rehabilitación con Esperanza” is a public health program in the district of La Esperanza, Trujillo, Perú with two main focus areas:
  • improving access to healthcare services, rehabilitation-trained community health workers, assistive devices, transportation, education, support groups, work, and recreation for persons with disabilities
  • improving access to continuing education resources for physical therapists 

The project currently has a population of 20 children with disabilities, and utilizes community agents and support groups to address the needs of caregivers as well. While the project is organized by CMMB, it relies mainly on funding via grants. Unfortunately the grant process has not yielded support yet, and the entire project is currently running by the big hearts of a few volunteers.

This community-based rehabilitation program is hoping to build on its’ sustainability and improve the quality of care received by participants by involving collaboration with international volunteers. This year, Regis University (Denver, CO) will be sending down physical therapy students and faculty to assist with this public health project and the hands-on training of community health agents, local physical therapists, and families/caregivers of the children. In addition, two physical therapists from the US will lead a 2-day continuing education conference in the training of rehabilitation for neurological conditions to 80 local physical therapists in Trujillo.

All donations received at the fundraiser will go toward the facilitation of the training/education sessions in August 2012 and supplies such as the rehabilitation equipment that each child in the project needs. Please stop by - learn more about CMMB - and support this great cause!

Muchisimas Gracias!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Peru, Take Two!

Great news- I couldn't get enough of Peru, so I am thrilled to announce that in three months I will be headed back! Unfortunately this time I will only get to stay 3 weeks, but hey, better than nothing.

This year I'm going down with a group of Regis DPT students and faculty Nancy Mulligan. Similar to last year, as a service learning trip, the students will do some touring of healthcare facilities and meet with leaders at the Peru Ministry of Health in Lima, before heading to northern Peru to help with CMMB's public health project "Rehabilitación con Esperanza." There, students will assist with outcomes collection and the training of community agents, PT's, and families/caregivers of 20 children with disabilities who are currently enrolled in the project. We also aim to strengthen our collaborative relationship between Regis and two of the local universities in Trujillo.

The students will also join two physical therapist volunteers from the US, Sarah Ingram and Cindy Potter, to lead a 2-day international continuing education conference in Trujillo with a focus on physical therapy examination/evaluation/treatment of neurological conditions (specifically cerebral palsy and stroke, the two most common neurological pathologies found in northern Peru) - August 11-12, 2012.

Of course, I'll be heading down early to make time to see my family and friends in La Esperanza - and get my share of mama Nelly's aji and home cooking too! ;) Can't wait!