Up in the Mountains




Hola a todos!

As part of the Community Public Health program, we were sent to stay in a rural community in the Dominican Republic to compare and contrast our experiences with those to the city of Santiago. For ten days, I stayed in the pueblo of Juncalito which is located in the province of Santiago. The unique town of Juncalito is found at a high altitude given its location on a mountain which causes the weather to be temperate compared to the rest of the country.

Given its landscape, Juncalito’s center for primary care is located apart from the pueblo itself. This causes a health dispersity given the limited access many people have to get medical attention. This is because geographically the center is uphill. To get there walking which is the main method of transportation in Juncalito, it is all uphill and downhill. This causes a problem for people who have difficulties making the trek. Even for me with my asthma it was challenging to walk to the clinic day in and day out.

One method the doctors of the center have implemented to ameliorate this health disperity is to offer home visitations to the patients in need that unfortunately do to their given condition cannot go to the center. During my time there, I got to shadow two home visits which were for two sisters who had inherited familial Alzheimer’s disease with early onset.

One of the physicians there mentioned that their mother had suffered from the disease and unfortunately had passed away. This last spring quarter I took a developmental neurobiology class where I learned all about Alzheimer’s disease and the devastation the disease could cause but I had never witnessed it firsthand. It wasn’t until we did the home visits that I felt the devastation of the family that the disease had done to their loved one with no available cure. That was such an intimate and rough moment.

Another class that I took at my host university that I got to see in action during my stay in Juncalito was parasitology. I took this class last winter quarter and it has been one of my favorite courses that I’ve taken. At the clinic there was a lab inside where they performed the diagnostic tests as requested by the doctors. I got to shadow the bio-analyst and learn all about how the different tests were conducted.

When examining the stool sample of a patient under the compound microscope, the bio-analyst found a parasite and allowed me to see it under the microscope as well. I was so fascinated with it because I had learned about this parasite and when I saw it I could actually recognize it and name it. The bio-analyst got excited to because no one else in the clinic found this so interesting as we did. It just really hit me how crazy it was learning this in Santa Barbara, California in the United States to actually putting my knowledge to use in a small town up in the mountains of Juncalito in the Dominican Republic.

More than anything my time on the mountain put many things into perspective education and reality wise and for that I am forever grateful for Juncalito.

I can’t wait to see what this beautiful country of the Dominican Republic has in store.

Until next time,

Crystal Alcala