Marymount University has partnered with Global Health Ministry and community health advocates in Chulucanas, Peru, to establish the Peru Eye Health Project. Living in a remote area of northern Peru, Chulucanas residents have limited access to health care, including vision services. This initiative will provide them with education and preventive care, as well as improved access to treatment.
The genesis of Marymount’s involvement began with a 2010 meeting between Sister Mary Jo McGinley, the director of Global Health Ministry (GHM), and MU faculty members Dr. Alyson Eisenhardt and Dr. Judy Clear. Since 1989, GHM, a Catholic network of hospitals, has brought together teams of health care professionals who volunteer their services to medical missions in Latin America. Marymount’s commitment to service learning and research makes a partnership between the two organizations a natural pairing.
GHM indicated that eye health was an ongoing medical need in Chulucanas and requested the University’s assistance. Marymount agreed to develop a program that would offer one-on-one eye health education, provide improved access to eye health services, and ultimately, create a sustainable eye health promotion program.
An interdisciplinary team of Marymount faculty collaborated to establish the program, which will include a service learning component for students and be operated through MU’s Center for Global Education. The team consisting of Dr Alyson Eisenhardt, assistant professor of Health Care Management, Dr Nancy Furlow, associate professor of Marketing, and Drs. Shirley Jarecki and Judy Clear, professors of Nursing, will provide the expertise needed to get the program up and running.
To this end, Drs. Eisenhardt and Jarecki traveled to Chulucanas in October 2011 and conducted a pilot study of 72 taxi drivers to assess overall eye health. The study concluded that over 80% of those surveyed had existing eye problems that were not being addressed, a finding that could be extrapolated to the general population.
The next step is a return trip in June, this time as part of a service learning course. MU faculty and graduate students in the Health Care Management (HCM) and Health Promotion Management (HPM) programs will work one-on-one with clients. In addition, the HCM students will conduct an overall assessment of how Global Health Ministry delivers complex medical services under very difficult logistical conditions, with the goal of developing recommendations for increased efficiency. The HPM students will also devote their time in Chulucanas to creating an ongoing eye health promotion campaign.
Dr. Eisenhardt, the team leader, says, “I’m excited about the June trip, during which we will take the first steps to setting up the program to improve eye health services. However, this is an ongoing initiative and, in order to really make a difference, more funding will be needed going forward."
Victor Bentancourt, director of Marymount’s Center for Global Education, is also enthusiastic about this latest Marymount international service commitment. He says, “A global perspective is an important part of a Marymount education. I am especially excited when we can make local-to-global connections. Working together with the GHM Catholic hospital network, Marymount is continuing to make the world a better place.”
Donations to help sustain the Peru Eye Health Project may be made online atwww.marymount.edu/academics/programs/eyehealth