Physician assistant students complete clinical rotations in Peru

Published 05.28.2024

Nursing & Health Sciences
Physician Assistant
Global Experiences
Pennsylvania College of Technology physician assistant studies students Erin T. Braxton (fourth from left), of Berwyn, and Catherine Coy (fifth from left), of Clifton Park, New York, celebrate in Peru with Spanish professors. The students completed a five-week clinical education rotation at Florencia de Mora hospital in Trujillo, Peru, and completed courses in medical and conversational Spanish. (Photo provided by Erin Braxton)

Two Pennsylvania College of Technology physician assistant studies students feel inspired and grateful following a recent clinical education rotation in Peru.

“This was an incredibly beautiful experience, and I'm still mourning the fact that I'm not in Peru anymore,” said Erin T. Braxton, of Berwyn.

Braxton and Catherine Coy, of Clifton Park, New York, spent five weeks in Trujillo, one of Peru’s largest cities. They completed their elective clinical rotation at Florencia de Mora hospital, with Braxton focusing on obstetrics and gynecology and Coy on pediatrics.

“I worked with a Peruvian pediatrician who let me observe her interactions with patients and repeat her physical examinations on each patient,” Coy said.

They also spent a great deal of time in classes to learn conversational and medical Spanish, as well as grammar, and participating in health clinics – called “campañas” – which helped bring free medical care to underserved communities. Clinics took place in Pacasamayo – about 67 miles north of Trujillo – and the seaside city of Huanchaco, as well as a women’s prison, where, under the supervision of their medical Spanish professor, the students provided medical care to inmates and their children.

"It was an incredibly humbling experience that only deepened my desire to work in health care."

Catherine Coy, physician assistant studies student

“We brought a limited number of medications with us to each clinic, and with our prescriptions, patients were able to pick up the medications they needed, completely free of charge,” Coy said. “Each patient was extremely grateful to Erin and I, many thanking us with hugs and blessings for our futures. It was an incredibly humbling experience that only deepened my desire to work in health care.”

Both students had traveled outside the U.S. before and were eager for the opportunity to complete part of their education in South America.

“I’ve been traveling my whole life, and I knew I would be so happy to do one of my rotations abroad,” Braxton said. “I did a medical internship in undergrad in Kenya for two and a half months and completely fell in love with learning about how other countries do medicine.”

“As someone who loves to travel, the opportunity to go to Peru for a clinical rotation was a driving factor in my ultimate decision to attend Penn College as a physician assistant student,” Coy said.

But that doesn’t mean she didn’t face any anxiety.

“While I have been out of the country several times before, this was my first time out of the country without my parents or a close group of friends,” Coy said. “I would be lying to say that I wasn’t nervous about this experience, but I’m ultimately so incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity and glad Erin was there to experience it with me. My nervousness quickly turned into excitement once we arrived and led us to having a life-changing experience.”

That experience extended beyond language school, health clinics, and learning from medical professionals at Florencia de Mora hospital. The duo also enjoyed the sites of northern Peru: They took an eight-hour bus ride to Huaraz, where they hiked to Wilcacocha Lagoon and the Pastoruri Glacier and took in the work of local craftspeople; watched surfers in Huanchaco; and explored Trujillo’s public square (Plaza de Armas), botanical gardens, restaurants and discotecas.

“I would encourage any and every health care provider who is able to do something like this,” Braxton said. “It is important for us to see how other countries live and how they make do with what they have. It helps us to understand how fortunate we are, but also how excessive and wasteful the way we live can be sometimes. People can live a simple, wholesome life and be so happy, as we often saw in Perú.”

“I was surprised to see the many differences between American and Peruvian culture, including the driving, cuisine, health care system and cost of living,” Coy said. “Overall, this experience has made me exponentially more grateful to be working in health care, as I feel incredibly blessed to be in a position to help others.”

Braxton and Coy plan to graduate in August.

“My experience in Peru has further opened my eyes to a world of travel, and I’m hoping to do more international medicine in the years to come,” Coy said.

Penn College offers a Master of Science in physician assistant studies. To learn more, call 570-327-4519.

For information about Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.