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USF Health Student Plans to Open Clinic in Nicaragua
July 2, 2013

Nicole Teal’s first trip outside the United States was to Nicaragua at the age of nineteen. She remembers feeling humbled as she arrived in La Chureca, the village she volunteered to aid in bringing health education and services to. In La Chureca, Nicole witnessed an entirely new definition of poverty; she watched in awe as people fought each other and animals to get the best the burning garbage pile had to offer for food and recycling. That trip left a lasting impression and a desire to help the people of Nicaragua.

Nicole completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Florida in Family and Youth Community Sciences and then decided to continue her studies at USF’s medical school. She was impressed with how student centered USF is. She was also excited to know that USF would support her crazy dream of opening a health clinic in Nicaragua. Through the USF Health & Manna Project International program Nicole has been able to put her plans into action. In April five USF Health students went on the program to bring healthcare to the community of Cedro, Nicaragua.

Nicole Teal

The Manna Project International (MPI) incorporates the community’s needs and necessary health provisions in order to create sustainable health care for the community. Since 2004, MPI has been working to strengthen Nicaraguan communities by providing developmental programs that include education, health, leadership development, and economic empowerment. Currently, MPI has sites in Nicaragua, Ecuador and Guatemala. Each international site is run by a Program Director, a thirteen month volunteer position. In the future, MPI hopes to appoint additional USF Public Heath students to serve as Program Directors.

So inspired by her program, Nicole,  a second year medical student,  will take a year off to help to establish the first health clinic in Cedro Galan, Nicaragua. Simultaneously she will work earn a Masters in Public Health by taking classes online. Nicole will be the Project Director for one year and will focus on developing the clinic so it can address the community’s health needs. The health clinic will teach community members how to deal with chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease in addition to providing general education classes. MPI focuses on working with and learning from the community to empower citizens rather than create dependency on volunteer services.

Nicole gets her inspiration from the Nicaraguan community members. During the Community Advisory Board nominations, a resident stood up to speak on behalf of the community. She expressed the community’s gratitude and appreciation to the volunteers. She was elated to see young people who were not mandated to care but who genuinely cared about the community’s needs. Nicole is also inspired by being able to provide solutions to problems and enjoys seeing the change she is able to make in the community.

While in Nicaragua, Nicole plans to spend her spare time building relationships with her housemates and the members of the community. She also plans to work on becoming fluent in Spanish and travel to neighboring countries. Upon return to the United States, Nicole will complete her third and fourth years of medical school.