CSHI became a UNC SOM student organization during the 2007-2008 school year and was formed by a group of first year medical students. Students met with Dr. Morgan, one of the leading UNC faculty involved with Latino Health regarding possibilities for public health projects. He seemed really optimistic about possible projects and later after talking to his colleague, Dean Peña in Leon, came up with the idea of working in the Sahsa community in Nicaragua. In September of 2007, Hurricane Felix struck the Atlantic Coast and left many rural communities devastated. Soon we had a group of 8 medical students and two Med/Peds residents who were actively involved with the project.
This first year was challenging and involved numerous meetings with UNAN, grant writing, and preliminary trips to Sahsa. The focus of this first of the organization was to not only to collect preliminary data, but also to start developing a relationship with the community leaders and communities. Three fichas were used including a CIDS basic health questionnaire, CIDS maternal health questionnaire, and a CDC diarrheal burden survey. Survey teams involved a couple UNC medical students, a UNAN medical student, and a community health leader. Going house to house, were able to pilot over 400 questionnaires to a number of communities along the main road.
Since late June, we traveled to Sahsa and spent three weeks there, living with six other UNAN medical students. It´s too much for my Internet cost to write about the entire experience at once, but in brief, we went out to the Sahsa community and many other neighboring communities for surveys. The surveys included basic identifying information like name, birthdate, occupation, level of education, what type of house it is, and pregnancy history for women between the ages of 15 to 49, and a diarrheal survey if the household had at least one incidence of diarrhea in the past month. We also marked each house on the GPS. In total, we probably have about 375 surveys completed, though the total hasn´t been thoroughly counted. We also rotated in the Centro de Salud down the street from where we lived and helped out with the other UNAN students and our two awesome UNC residents, Sara and Rick. Both the opportunities to survey and to help out at the clinic have been incredible privileges. Almost nobody turned us down for the surveys, instead, they offered us the only chairs they have or the only egg that the chicken laid. At the clinic, women with crying babies wait for hours to be seen, after walking for hours to come to the clinic
Being in one of the most rural and forgotten places of the world really makes you re-evaluate the resources and opportunities available to you. When we got to Sahsa, we had no electricity (a week later, it started up from 7 pm to 10 and we were in awe), the water was yellow, the clinic was lacking a thermometer and quickly running out of medications. There was a line of patients every morning and there were definitely days when patients were sent home and told to return the next day…and since Sahsa ‘s clinic covers the surrounding other communities, that may mean half a days walk/horse ride/bus ride.