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Waiting room serves as classroom, for now

In May, the Community Health Workers moved their work to a new space, an unused government clinic that they have permission to occupy for 5 years. The clinic itself is beautiful – much nicer than they are used to – but it lacks dormitories and classroom space.

Lesley McGalliard, MD and her psychologist husband Richard Layman, who have volunteered in the region since 2002, traveled from the state of Washington to teach the first class in the new building. Lesley is a family medicine physician and Tropical Medicine Diplomate. Her ambitious goal for the week was to review material from the first two years of study, refine clinical interviewing skills and work on diagnosis. Here’s what Lesley had to say about their time in Peten:

The new clinic is an adequate space, but it lacks a classroom. Instead, we used the waiting room, and the advanced health workers ingeniously re-routed clinic patients around the side of the building, using the patio as a waiting room. It worked. I actually like the waiting room space a little better for teaching than the old classroom, as it is a bit smaller and more intimate. The students can’t "escape" to the back as easily. The course went very well, in fact it was a lot of fun. I had written a variety of patient scenarios and we worked our way through those. We spent about half of the time using interactive learning games, such as role-playing and “Family Feud” in teams.

In addition to the course, Monday and Wednesday were busy clinic days and we saw diabetics all morning on Thursday. Rich helped the CHWs with patients with mental health issues. On Monday, there were 3 cases of trauma. One 30 month old boy had fallen against a gas-powered corn mill and had a large scalp laceration. CHW Antonia sewed him up and did a great job. She is becoming one of the most skilled CHWs of the group that started in 2010. Antonia serves her community as a bilingual CHW, speaking both Spanish and Q'eqchi. (Don't miss the pictures of Antonia in action posted below.)

Yesica and Ontonio, the married CHWs from one of the more remote communities, brought in their 6 month old boy, very cute with a head of curly hair that stands straight up. Yesica consulted me about a rather complex diabetes case, and I didn´t have much to add to her ideas. She gets a lot of practice with her diabetic mom in that regard. But her mom is doing better, she tells me. The foot ulcer she had when I saw her in January has fortunately healed.

All in all, a great week. The CHWs were attentive and appreciative during the class, and there were many ah-HA! moments, which is always fun. They are doing great work in the communities, as usual. The clinic space is adequate and everyone is settling in nicely. Rich and I are already planning our next trip back this winter.

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