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Seeing health care stripped down to basics

After six months on co-op at health facilities in Costa Rica and Peru, health sciences senior Rose Paine has returned to Northeastern with an international perspective on both her education and her future career.

Paine said witnessing health needs outside the United States was eye opening, as was her daily interaction with Costa Ricans and Peruvians. Even entering patient data by hand into stacks of notebooks exemplified the stark differences from her previous co-op, when she was surrounded by state-of-the-art equipment at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“I think I have more of a global view of not just health, but life in general,” Paine said.

From mid-January through April, Paine worked at the National Children’s Hospital in San Jose, Costa Rica. There, she helped care for children undergoing care, from tracheotomies to cancer treatment. Days spent with infants whose mothers were working or caring for their other children helped her realize the significance of her impact at the hospital.

“It was nice to help out the parents who were trying to spend as much time with their children as they could,” she said.

From May through July, Paine shifted her co-op to a clinic in the hills outside Lima, Peru, specifically in the poor neighborhood of Tupac Amaru de Villa. She tested blood samples from pregnant women, analyzed other samples for infectious and sexually transmitted diseases, and tested saliva samples for tuberculosis. She also accompanied the clinic’s nutritionist to a school for discussions with parents and students about healthy eating.

Now back on campus, Paine’s senior capstone project involves educating youths about their health. Her group is developing a college readiness program for local high school students that would present lessons on keeping healthy when they enter college, from eating right to managing stress.

They are collaborating with SquashBusters — an after-school urban youth development program on Northeastern’s campus.

“Learning about how they deal with nutrition in Peru changed my point of view on nutrition and how it can be communicated to high school students,” Paine said. “Most of the students we will be dealing with on capstone are of different ethnic backgrounds. Having been exposed to these different cultures has given me skills to better communicate and relate to people with different backgrounds.”

In fact, this experiential learning opportunity inspired Paine to enroll in courses in “Spanish for Medical Professionals” and international affairs this semester.

“I would love to get into a career dealing with public health internationally,” she said.

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