Zapaca Wellness Program: A Tale of Dental & Medical Clinics

Arcadia University’s PA Program changed lives on a medical mission trip to promote global health. In partnership with host organization “Hearts in Motion,” Arcadia PA faculty, students, alumni, and interprofessional partners traveled to four remote villages in Zapaca, Guatemala and hosted dental and medical clinics in each village. The PA-led wellness program aimed to enhance knowledge and improve oral health in youth, while simultaneously treating basic medical needs of adults and children.

Before the trip, students and faculty participated in pre-departure education to develop a better understanding of the needs of the community and how to best serve them. These educational sessions reviewed the medicine involved with the community health projects, raised cultural awareness and provided language training, and encouraged self-reflection.

The dental clinic included an oral screening and exam, fluoride varnish application, and interactive education. Upon completion, children received both oral and basic hygiene supplies, including a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, shampoo, and a bar of soap, for self-care.

The medical clinic consisted of a triage station, vital signs, physical exam tables, and a pharmacy dispensary. Patients also received anti-parasite medications and a daily supply of multivitamins in correspondence to their age and condition.

PA students rotated through both clinics, and patient progress was tracked via an encounter sheet, which contained the patient’s age, diagnosis, and supplies utilized for treatment. The encounter sheets helped monitor daily supply inventory and will inform preparations for future trips.

“The students and faculty were required to use ingenuity in setting up the clinic space and utilizing the resources around to make the clinic usable,” said Arcadia University PA faculty member Zachary T. Weik, PA-C. “Their experience in Guatemala will be invaluable to build their confidence in their own ability to meet any obstacle.”

The outreach also served as an outlet for PAs to collaborate with other health providers, including a physician, nurse practitioner, registered nurse, and occupational therapists.

The trip exceeded initial goals, and PA students were able to directly treat and educate approximately 1,100 patients. Additionally, another 300 individuals were impacted by the team’s efforts to provide meals to community members and to visit and engage children in the local orphanage.

Arcadia hopes to replicate this trip on an annual basis, expanding their reach for oral health education and treatment.

This project was supported by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE Grant.

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