Administering global health: Pharmacy student helps run free clinic in Lima, Peru

Heidi Fernandes administering medication to a patient

Heidi Fernandes administering medication to a patient

After witnessing the impoverished areas of Rio de Janeiro on a family vacation, Heidi Fernandes had a desire to help those in need.

This summer Heidi, a third year Doctor of Pharmacy student, put this passion to work by spending 17 days in Lima, Peru in the region of Pamplona Alta. During this time she, along with 20 other health care professionals, helped run a free walk-in clinic. As the only pharmacy professional on the trip, Heidi was in charge of all pharmacy operations.

Though she had gone on volunteer mission trips previously, Heidi had never practiced pharmacy in an international setting. Working in a resource-limited area with language barriers proved to be both a rewarding and challenging time for Heidi, as she was to able to put her expertise to use to serve the people of Pamplona Alta.

For many members of the Pamplona Alta community, the only medical attention they seek is when our team runs their clinic every year. Although it may be a smaller act, it impacts the community greatly.”

Heidi explained that the impact of her work was most prominent when  speaking to patients:

Before we set up our clinic, our team had the chance to actually visit the people we would be serving in the community they lived in. One resident said that they often feel forgotten by their government, where politicians make promises and come visit around election time but then are never seen after that. The fact that this trip is held every year means a lot to the community because we have not forgotten about them.”

Heidi Fernandes and other students on trip organizing paperwork for medication

Heidi and other students on trip organizing paperwork for medication

Not only did her experience in Peru make a difference to those receiving the care, it has only made Heidi more confident in her abilities as a pharmacist.

With graduation a year away, this experience definitely gave me confidence as a future clinician… I am much more independent with my clinical decisions and ready for the challenges I will be facing as a new grad."

If you are interested in pursing an international volunteer experience, check out Waterloo International to learn more about what options are available for you.

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