Programs : Brochure
- Locations: Eldridge, Belize
- Program Terms: Spring Travel, Summer Travel
- Homepage: Click to visit
- Restrictions: TJU applicants only
Hillside Health Care International in Belize’s Toledo District
Belize is famous for its Mayan ruins, beaches, sea sports, and wildlife. Its diverse cultures make it a fascinating country to live in and visit. While blessed with a stable political environment, according to the PAHO, Belize still faces challenges that affect the health of its citizens: poverty, slow economic growth, insufficient human resources, and financial constraints.
Located in southern Belize, the Toledo District remains the most underserved region. Its population is dispersed and lives in precarious socio-economic conditions: 83% live in rural areas and 73% of people in rural areas live in poverty. Almost 25% of its residents do not have access to potable water and 78% do not have access to a sewer system. The under-5 mortality rate is almost double the national rate. At 1.2 physicians and nurses per 1000 people, the district is one of the least served.
Hillside has had a teaching mission since its opening in 2000 and is affiliated with several universities in the US. Every month 13-15 medical, physician assistant, pharmacy, public health, and physical therapy students and/or medical residents come from the US, United Kingdom, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia for rotations at Hillside. Clinical rotations at the Hillside Clinic enhance our ability to provide health care services and expose students to the practice of global health.
The Clinic itself is a modern facility, consisting of the buildings for the clinic, physical therapy and education, student dorm, and facilities support. Hillside Clinic is an outpatient primary care facility with over 10,000 patient visits a year at its Clinic, on rural village mobile clinics, and in its homecare program.
Hillside’s services are based on needs identified by volunteer practitioners, the people living in the Toledo district, and on-going collaborations with the Ministries of Health and Education, local and international NGOs, the Belizean Red Cross, and Community Health Workers.
Guidance for the education program is provided by the HHC’s Educational Committee along with the Hillside Clinic Medical Director, Clinic Director, Program Directors, and other clinic staff.
While at Hillside, the students/residents are exposed to a variety of cross cultural experiences as they work with the Maya, Garifuna, Creole, East Indian and other Belizean cultures. They learn to evaluate patients while working through language barriers and cultural differences. Confidence in evaluation skills increases as medical learners make diagnoses and treatment plans without the reassurance of diagnostic tools they may be accustomed to using. Many participants report gaining a much greater awareness of the barriers to medical care that are present in impoverished communities as they participate in home visits.
Students/residents at Hillside participate in the program for a 4-week elective. During that time, they are involved in many aspects of the operation of the clinic as they work closely with the clinic medical and support staff. The clinic is closed on weekends so that students have the opportunity to take side trips in the unique Central American country of Belize or into neighboring Guatemala. Participants normally find that the month passes quickly as they take advantage of the learning and cultural opportunities.
All of the activities in which students/residents participate are aimed at improving the health status of the population served as well as establishing long-term relationships with local health care providers and educators. Through these varied activities, participants gain an appreciation of how medicine and health promotion are conducted in a developing environment. Concurrently, participants gain an understanding and appreciation of Belizean cultures and medical conditions encountered in the tropics. Most return home with a greater appreciation of health care and basic living needs of the medically underserved in their own home countries.
Structure of each rotation
The work week begins on Monday morning and ends Friday at noon with specific assignments for participants outlined in weekly schedules. The following components of the rotation are under the guidance and supervision of the clinic medical staff:
Hillside Clinic: The clinic is open 5 days a week from 8 am-to noon although patients may be seen into the early afternoon. The morning hours coincide with the high volume of bus traffic from the remote villages to Punta Gorda for the regional market. Hillside operates a shuttle to and from Punta Gorda on clinic mornings. With patients arriving at the clinic from all areas of the district, participants are assured exposure to many diverse cultures. A licensed health care provider is present to supervise patient care and student/resident performance during clinic hours. Participants collaborate with colleagues from diverse backgrounds and disciplines to find patient care solutions. They work under the direction of the supervising preceptor to evaluate patients, design and implement treatment plans, and document encounters.
Mobile Clinics: Each weekday, the Clinic’s four-wheel drive vehicles are packed with provisions and driven through the rainforest to selected villages of the Toledo District to conduct mobile clinics. Mobile clinics are often conducted with the assistance of a village health care worker, who provides insight into the village, its people, the conditions encountered, and their treatment. All patient care and participant performance is supervised by a licensed provider.
Home Visits: Home visits are made to elderly and/or disabled patients in the Punta Gorda and surrounding areas who are unable to go to a health clinic. Prior to seeing home visit patients, charts are reviewed and medications are prepared. The home visit program is an opportunity for participants to become familiar with clients’ lifestyles and to learn how living conditions may impact lives and health. Time is taken for social interaction that is often enjoyed equally by the provider and patient.
Community Health: Health education and outreach are an important component of the elective with participants assigned to various community projects. These cover a wide range of activities that include education in the local schools, HIV/AIDS education, educational sessions for the elderly, nutritional education for the parents of village school children, educational sessions for parents and caretakers of disabled youth. Many of these sessions are conducted in partnership with the Ministries of Education and Health as well as with local NGOs.
Cultural Exchange: Opportunities for cultural exchange are plentiful and help make this elective a superior international elective. Twice weekly, participants are taken to the regional market in Punta Gorda for the chance to view and purchase local produce and goods and typical Mayan, Creole, and Garifuna meals are sometimes enjoyed during the mobile clinics into the villages. The weekends are free to learn and interact with the various cultures of Belize, as well as to explore the wonders of the Caribbean Sea, Belize’s rainforests, and Mayan ruins.
For students interested in applying:
To better accommodate student interest Hillside has twelve 4-week rotations and one 2-week rotation (in December).
1. Submit this application to inquire about availability of the time you want to serve. If a spot is available, you will be notified and this application will “hold” your spot for thirty days only until the following is received:
2. Because of the high demand for these spots, if the required items are not received within 30 days, your spot may be offered to another applicant. Once the required items are received and your application is approved, you will be notified with an acceptance letter with further instructions as to how to prepare for your time at our clinic (evacuation insurance, immunization requirements, etc.).
Fundraising for your Experience
All residents and students must pay a rotation fee that helps pay for housing, work-related transportation, utilities, educational experiences and defray the cost of providing free health care services to the poorest people in Belize. The clinic operates entirely on donations so any additional contributions participants can raise in addition to the rotation fee are greatly appreciated. If you would like to raise additional funds for the clinic prior to your experience, please contact Hillside’s Director of Development.
Jefferson Student Reports - Hillside Health Care International
|Belize - Hillside - 2014|