During her second journey to the island of Bohol with her Georgia College study abroad class, Associate Professor of Nursing Flor A. Culpa-Bondal and her class made a disturbing discovery. As they toured public spaces with their partner institutions to explore evidence-based practice, they observed widespread cases of tooth decay in many of Bohol’s children. This was something Culpa-Bondal and her students resolved to do something about.
“The most rewarding part of this trip was our opportunity to go into the communities in Bohol and varnish teeth for children and check cholesterol levels for adults,” said senior nursing major Yazmin Thompson.
Last year alone, students varnished the teeth of over 300 children and distributed over a thousand toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste to combat the epidemic of tooth decay. They also performed cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure checks in direct response to their observations of salted fish sold in the markets and their discussions with locals about the Boholano diet.
“Because of the humid temperature,” Culpa-Bondal said, “we tour places and implement projects in the morning. In the afternoon, students continue their discussions, and hear lectures and presentations.”
As part of the trip, students were able to observe health care providers on their tours of hospitals and clinics. They also heard guest lectures on the health care system of the Philippines. These opportunities are invaluable, said Culpa-Bondal.
“I think the ingenious use of limited resources by health care providers is a great takeaway,” she said. “The student partners are also nursing students, whom they will develop lifelong friendships. I have students from previous years who give me updates of what their fellow nurses in Bohol are doing.”
The Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, so the opportunities to explore differing cultural beliefs and practices in this area are vast and infinitely valuable to students who will be practicing medicine in the real world with peoples of all kinds of different faiths and backgrounds.
It isn’t all about the work though. Culpa-Bondal understands that much of the education comes from the bonding with fellow students and local citizens, “The class also has opportunities to explore cultural sites and points of interests during the weekends, like island hopping and the beautiful chocolate hills.”
“We saw tarsiers, the chocolate hills, we fed monkeys, pet and held snakes, floated down the beautiful Loboc river and danced with the locals,” said Thompson. “No matter the condition of their teeth or their health, they were just excited to see us and that energy was contagious. We got to see the impact that this program has made there in the Philippines over these past six years and they are so thankful and gracious to continue having us return.”