June 15, 2001

VUMC group heads to Peru

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The clinic will be located in Pisach in the Sacred Valley, one home of the Incas in Peru.

VUMC group heads to Peru

Some people go to great lengths to lend a hand. Others, like a group of Vanderbilt University Medical Center volunteers, go to great heights, as in 11,154 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains.

Dr. Jeff McKinzie, assistant professor of Emergency Medicine, is leading a troupe of volunteers Sept. 16-26 on a medical mission to Cusco, Peru, a town built by the ancient Inca civilization. He’s looking for more eager, adventurous folks to go along. And since the trip is a volunteer excursion and all hands are paying their way, a benefactor or two wouldn’t hurt, either.

Twenty volunteers have signed up so far. An athletic trainer and three staff persons from a non-profit group called Immeasurably More, which is helping with the trip’s logistics, have also committed. But McKinzie’s wish list for volunteers looks like a hospital administrator’s shopping list.

“We need two pharmacists. We have one dentist going, we need another one,” said McKinzie, “and people from other areas of medicine are needed, also.”

McKinzie has traveled to Cusco on missions five times in the past four years. His trips abroad, which also include stops in Africa, were with church-based groups. But this one, he said, is non-sectarian with education and service the top priorities. As well as helping indigenous people, “This is an opportunity for our people to learn about health care systems in developing countries,” he said.

The group will stay in Cusco at night and will set up a clinic in a small village called Pisach. The trip will include a couple of days at the end of the stay for sight-seeing, but McKinzie says the R&R will be well earned; he expects to treat at least 2,000 people in five clinic days for a variety of medical and dental primary care problems.

“This will be a working trip,” McKinzie said. “However, we will take some time to see some of the sights in and around Cusco, including the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. This promises to be an unforgettable experience. Team members will meet some fascinating people, see some incredible sights and get a rare glimpse of Peruvian culture that the average tourist never sees.”

The trip is estimated to cost $1,600 to $1,800, including travel, lodging and most meals. McKinzie is negotiating with airlines for group rates and hopes the cost will decrease. He also welcomes any donations to the group in the form of money, pharmaceuticals or medical supplies.

For more information, contact McKinzie at 936-0087, or e-mail at jeff.mckinzie@mcmail.vanderbilt.edu.