Glens Falls Medical Mission Foundation.

Let Your Student Work With Our Teams
Student Health Care Provider Experience and
Student Spanish Speakers Experience


The Glens Falls Medical Mission Foundation is a small, not for profit organization which runs a semi annual medical mission in the small town of Nueva Santa Rosa, Guatemala, every spring and fall since 1996. In our one week missions, we serve over 2200 patients and their families. We also provide teaching for the local midwives, firemen, and area hospital personnel.

We bring about 40 volunteers on each mission. About half of our volunteers are medical personnel, the rest are general volunteers and translators. We are always in desperate need of the latter. By this proposal, we are seeking to expand our base of volunteers who are fluent in Spanish, and also provide students with an educational opportunity to use their Spanish skills in a truly unique situation.

Student volunteers.

Students would be able to work in several areas of the clinic. Much of their work would be in the clinic itself, assisting health care providers in the medical, dental, pediatric, and women’s clinics. Other translating opportunities would be in the areas of patient education, pharmacy, midwife education, and in teaching the firemen. There would also be the more difficult challenge of translating for the hospital lectures, this would require a more extensive knowledge of technical medical terms.

We would accept both High School and College students, either those who are native speakers, or who have demonstrated proficiency as Spanish majors. For High School and for freshman and sophomore college students, we would request a statement from a Spanish teacher that they are fluent enough for the challenges that they would face. For students who would be translating for the teaching mentioned above, we would provide the English vocabulary that they would have to use ahead of time, so that the student would be able to acquire the appropriate vocabulary in advance. Opportunities would be available for the student to prepare patient teaching topics that interest them ahead of time and then to work with our patient educator in the clinic.

Students should be in good health. We require that they receive Hepatitis A and B vaccines ahead of time, and that they be up to date on tetanus immunization. The altitude that we work at is free of malaria. Dengue fever is a risk that is avoided by use of insect repellent. We stay at a pleasant small hotel, and travel by bus to the clinic. The cost of the mission is ~$900-$1000 for each volunteer. This covers airfare, hotel, all meals and all ground transportation.

Besides being an excellent opportunity to practice their Spanish, students will be exposed to the reality of third world problems, in an environment where dedicated volunteers are working to make a real difference in the lives of the people served. Since we are an ongoing mission which has served the same area for over six years, our mission has made real friends among the local population. This means that the student will have an opportunity to work with the area bilingual population as well, since these townspeople help us as translators on each of our visits.

Clearly, such a mission could fulfill a school’s requirement for community service, in an area where the students skills are needed and valued.

For further information, click here to download an application, email us at: , or contact us by mail at PO Box 627, Glens Falls, NY 12801.


One of the major roles of the Health Care Provider student in the latter stages of his training, is to increase his exposure to clinical material in a setting where he will sharpen his skills in physical examination, gain experience in differential diagnosis, and learn cost effective, appropriate treatment. Typically, this is achieved in a hospital, clinic, or private practice setting. Often in these settings, the constraints of the available patient population restricts the type of experience the student will have.

The Glens Falls Medical Mission Foundation holds 1 week medical missions in Nueva Santa Rosa, Guatemala every spring and fall. During the 5 days of the clinic, we typically see over 2000 patients and their families. We provide medical, dental, pediatric and women’s care services. We have a fully stocked pharmacy and patient education departments. We hold outreach training for local firemen, midwives, and hospital personnel. We work closely with the townspeople and the local Lions Club, and have become an important, if intermittent, part of the community.

Our health care providers include practicing dentists, physicians, nurse practitioners and nurse midwives, physician assistants and nurses. Almost since our inception, we have accepted Health Care Practitioner students as well. We would like to codify this student experience, and submit it to teaching institutions to permit more students to avail themselves of this unique learning experience. We would hope that the educational institutions that refer students would consider this to be a credit bearing rotation. Obviously, this could also fulfill an institution’s public service requirement.

On a Glens Falls Medical Mission rotation, the student would:

  • Be supervised by practicing Health Care Providers in the specialty clinics that they work in.

  • Be exposed to social and cultural issues more intense than they would ever experience at home. We deal with problems caused by poverty, malnutrition, inadequate immunizations, inadequate health care system, illiteracy, and inadequate sanitation. The will see the role of patient education in helping to address these issues. We try to deal with these issues in a culturally sensitive way that preserves the dignity of the individual. They will learn how the issues of third world cultures eventually affect all of us, whether through the import of exotic diseases, or addressing the needs of immigrant populations.

  • Be exposed to many disease entities that are uncommon in the US, and many that are in more advanced stages than would be expected in a first world country. Kwashiorkor, marasmus, vitamin deficiencies, cataracts, incapacitating varicosities, previously undiagnosed congenital abnormalities, and parasitic diseases are just a few.

  • Have the opportunity to rotate through all the clinics, spending time with practitioners in each area. Depending on staffing needs, time could also be spent in pharmacy, education, or other areas.

  • Learn to really use clinical skills. Our access to lab and x-ray services is very limited, and clinical diagnosis is emphasized.

  • Learn what cost effectiveness really means in medicine. They will work with the pharmacist, educator or providers to be sure that the patient can be provided with the means to actually carry out the prescribed regimen.

In order to join a mission, the student would need to:

  • Be in the final stages of their training. We would accept 4th year medical students, and other students who are within 4-6 months of graduation, or who have had approximately 2/3 of their clinical training behind them. They would need a letter of approval from their dean or academic advisor. We are not in a position to teach basic physical exam skills, and expect the student to be proficient in these areas.

  • Be in good health and appropriately immunized to tetanus, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis A. We are at an altitude too high for malaria. Dengue is a risk, we address this with insect repellents.

  • Be able to pay their own way. A mission costs ~$900-$1000 per person. That is all inclusive: air fare, ground transportation, room and board.

  • Have their own exam equipment: blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, otoscope and opthalmoscope.

  • Be enthusiastic and hard working. Our days are long and tiring. We expect students to initiate the patient assessment, then seek out a provider to review their findings and plan.

  • Be a team player. They will be working with many people who may have less education but more experience than they do. They must be able to learn from, and work with, everyone on the team.

  • Be covered by their school’s malpractice insurance.

Student volunteers providing clinical help in Guatemala.A typical mission has 35-40 people. We stay in a very pleasant small hotel, and travel by bus to the clinic each day. Students do not need to be fluent in Spanish, although that is, of course, an advantage. Those who are not should make the effort to learn the basics: how to introduce themselves, greet people, and learn phrases useful in the physical exam. (“Lie down, open your mouth” etc.) For students joining us on their own, we will have a limit of 3 students per mission. If an instructor comes with the students, this number can be negotiated according to the needs of the mission that trip. For those who wish it, there is an opportunity to travel a bit in Guatemala after the mission is over. This can be arranged with our travel agent. Click here to download an application.

In offering this educational opportunity, we hope to enlarge the horizons of Health Care Provider students, both culturally and medically, as well as improve our ability to serve this medically indigent but wonderful group of Guatemalan people.

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