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Science students plan medical voyage to Peru

November 30, 2007 12:00AM

We often hear of medical professionals performing charitable work in other countries after they#&39;ve established their careers in the United States.

But a group of Pittsburg State University pre-health majors aren#&39;t waiting until their certificates are on the wall to use their medical knowledge to help foreign patients in need.

Fifteen students majoring in the biological sciences at PSU are raising funds to travel to Cuzco, Peru next May to volunteer in a variety of medical clinics. The group members, who were selected out of nearly 40 applicants based on their medical experience, grade point average and knowledge of the Spanish language, will spend two weeks working in rural outreach clinics, a women#&39;s health clinic and an infectious disease clinic.

Organized by junior biology major Emily Walters, the group will be traveling with the help of ProWorld, an international organization that matches volunteers with volunteer opportunities across the world.

#&34;It has really been a student-dreamed-up idea,#&34; Walters said, crediting Dr. Daniel Zurek, associate professor in biology and the group#&39;s faculty advisor, with offering guidance. #&34;We had a lot of students in specific areas of health who were interested in going, but our mission is already so broad this first time that we have been trying to keep it contained to the general health area.#&34;

While some students will receive travel stipends and scholarships from the university, the group is working on raising the remainder of the $47,000 tab. Their first fundraiser ? an invitation-only dinner reception primarily for area physicians and PSU administrators ? will be held Wednesday, Dec. 5, at the Stilwell Hotel in Pittsburg. Walters says other fundraisers, such as a phoneathon, a letter-writing campaign, and a black tie event, will be scheduled for the spring.

In addition to funding for their travel expenses, the students are also hoping to receive donations of medical supplies and products to use at the clinics.

#&34;What these students are doing is amazing,#&34; Zurek said. #&34;They are not only providing care to medically underserved people half a world away, they are also building leadership and medical care skills that will pay off throughout their lifetime. It#&39;s a privilege to be part of this.#&34;

Word of mouth in the Pittsburg community isn#&39;t the only attention the group hopes to get. A film student from the University of Kansas (whose documentary on nurse education during World War II was recently sold to the History Channel) has expressed interest in creating a documentary on the group#&39;s preparation and trip. The filmmaker is working on finding funding of her own to be able to travel to Peru with the students.

#&34;We believe this entire project will be a benefit for the people of Peru,#&34; Walters said. #&34;We#&39;re hoping that we will find support because a lot of our local physicians are committed to cultivating future doctors.#&34;

For more information on the trip, contact Emily Walters at 620-875-9170 or at emilykennedy@yahoo.com. To learn more about ProWorld, go to www.myproworld.org.

©2007 Pittsburg State University