Working with the Peruvian nonprofit organization CerviCusco, a small group of Augusta University nursing students successfully completed several medical campaigns to administer Gardasil — the HPV vaccination — to local Peruvian residents. Overcoming altitude sickness and a substantial language barrier, the students managed to vaccinate more than 1,100 Peruvians in a span of four days.
Part of Augusta University’s Study Abroad Program, there are typically two Peru trips organized every year, one for the spring semester and one for the fall semester. During each trip, a group of 18 nursing students receives hands-on, clinical experience by working in the central CerviCusco clinic and executing campaigns to provide medical care to rural Peruvians with no access to modern medicine.
According to Dr. Carol Hunter, one of the frequent faculty supervisors for the trip, the clinic serves as both the workplace and home base for nursing students unless they are driving to a campaign destination on one of the thin dirt roads. “Students get to live in the level above the clinic, and they also go on campaigns. Basically, a little bus takes our supplies and us to remote villages in the mountains to provide services and screenings,” said Hunter.
Dr. Gayle Bentley, associate professor from the College of Nursing and one of the trip’s faculty supervisors, is no stranger to the high elevation and ancient architecture of Cusco, Peru. In fact, this was her sixth trip to the city.
“Two hundred twenty-eight students have been since we started going. We love the place,” said Bentley. “The students write a journal when they come back, and all of them generally say it has changed the way they view health care.”
Established by Augusta University OBGYN specialist Dr. Daron Ferris in 2008, CerviCusco is a clinic dedicated to providing cervical cancer prevention, screening and diagnosis to all Peruvian women, particularly the large population of impoverished women living in Cusco.
Ferris’ decision to build a base for preventing and treating cervical cancer in Cusco was based on Peru’s having one of the highest cervical cancer rates in the world. A permanent crew of Peruvian health care specialists staffs the clinic, and foreign volunteers provide free service throughout the year.