Peru service-learning trip a first for Clinical Laboratory Science Program

Sarah Juenke | August 9, 2018

Five Texas State Clinical Laboratory Science (CLS) seniors completed their General Rotation in a service-learning study abroad program in Huancayo, Peru, for two weeks in June. The students --- Baylee Briones, Jaime Vreeland, Francisco Jaimes, Madeline Tupper, and Quincey Gonzalez were led by Joanna Ellis, clinical assistant professor and clinical coordinator in Texas State’s College of Health Professions.

The student team learned about Peru’s healthcare system from local medical students, received hands-on training at the Carrion Hospital’s anatomy lab and operating rooms, and performed health screenings with volunteers from the Foundation of International Medical Relief of Children. They screened local children and adults for anemia and sexually transmitted infections and educated patients through interactive lab science activities and crafts, serving over 160 people in three days. For one of those patients, the team helped identify a syphilis infection that gone undiagnosed for nearly ten years.

Professor Joanna Ellis described a particularly busy day at a local hospital.

“To get a complete picture of the healthcare system, including the medical laboratory, and an interprofessional perspective, one day, half of us went to the Carrion Hospital operating room and saw a doctor repair a broken femur, a cerebrospinal fluid diversion shunt placement, skin grafts, and eye surgeries,” said Ellis. “The other half went on rounds with a nurse to check patients’ vital signs and mingle with the locals. We finished off the day in a private lab where the lab manager demonstrated their lab protocols and showed us patient slides positive for Plasmodium vivax (a malarial parasite) and leishmaniasis (a disease caused by parasites and spread by sandflies).”

The service-learning program was a first for the College of Health Professions’ Clinical Laboratory Science program, and one of the first in the nation, according to Dr. Rodney E. Rohde, professor and chair, CLS Program and Research Dean for the College of Health Professions.

Rohde, a former public health microbiologist and molecular epidemiologist from the Texas Department of Health State Services Bureau of Laboratories / Zoonosis Control Division, as well as a Visiting Scientist with the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, says he is passionate about mentoring CLS students at Texas State and promoting global science and medical laboratory immersion experiences.

Every clinical laboratory student in the nation is required to complete one of five general rotations in the laboratory medicine scope of practice in a hospital, clinic or medical laboratory setting to receive hands-on experience under the direction of a medical lab professional, according to Rohde.

“Normally this general rotation happens near the student’s university in the final two semesters before graduation,” Rohde said. “But in this case, our five CLS students flew thousands of miles away to serve people in a unique setting. The experience challenges them and equips them to adapt to multicultural healthcare settings, work with patients who have unique conditions, and work in difficult environments without the usual modern equipment and conveniences.”

For example, malaria and leishmaniasis are known as Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). NTDs are not typical infectious agents that students would experience in Texas, but Rohde says they are becoming more common.

“These types of study abroad opportunities strengthen our student’s understanding of the broader, global healthcare community that we all must adapt to… with the next outbreak or epidemic just one plane ride away from the United States,” said Rohde.

When they weren’t working in the clinic or laboratory, the students had the opportunity to go high altitude hiking, dancing, shopping and take cooking classes. The five students who participated graduate in August.

For more information about the Texas State Clinical Laboratory Science (CLS) program visit their website

For more information, contact University Communications:

Jayme Blaschke, 512-245-2555

Sandy Pantlik, 512-245-2922