Over spring break, a team of grad­uate stu­dents in the physi­cian assis­tant pro­gram at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity embarked on a unique expe­ri­en­tial learningoppor­tu­nity, bringing badly needed med­ical care to remote Mayan vil­lages in Guatemala.

The North­eastern team included 10 stu­dents in the first year of the pro­gram — Abby Canner, Lindsey Car­lo­magno, Judy Chen, Catherine Crosby, Jef­frey Dabkowski, Lauren Dorr, Stephanie Fer­ello, Jeanne Jacobs, Erin Kelly and Kristen Nico­lescu — and one second-​​year stu­dent, Amy Hanscom.

The team left Boston on April 16, flying into Hon­duras and dri­ving four-​​and-​​a-​​half hours to Rio Dolce, Guatemala, bringing with them 250 pounds of med­ica­tions from the United States.

There, they met Bryan Buchanan, aka “the Jungle Medic,” who hosts groups of doc­tors at his med­ical facility. Buchanan arranges for vis­iting med­ical pro­fes­sionals and stu­dents to take his bus-​​turned-​​traveling med­ical clinic to vil­lages deep in the moun­tains and jungles.

The North­eastern team treated 930 people over five days of clinics. Dabkowski, one of the trip’s lead orga­nizers, said one lasting impres­sion he got from the expe­ri­ence was real­izing how simple med­ica­tions that people in America take for granted can have such a pro­found impact on people in less devel­oped parts of the world.

Many people don’t think twice about what a glass of orange juice does for our health, or the daily mul­ti­vi­t­a­mins we take,” he said. “For some of these people [in the vil­lages] it allows them to go to school or it fixes a (nutri­tional) deficiency.”

In the vil­lages, long lines of anx­ious but thankful patients formed hours before they arrived. Many vil­lagers they encoun­tered des­per­ately needed antibi­otics, vit­a­mins and dental care. Chil­dren often required cough med­i­cine and med­ica­tion for worms they devel­oped from walking bare­foot. The adults — who spend much of their days working in the fields cut­ting down trees with machetes and car­rying heavy loads of corn on their heads — were often pro­vided over-​​the-​​counter pain medications.

Some people came a long way for just a bag of Vit­amin C,” Dabkowski said of the vil­lagers, whose meals typ­i­cally con­sist only of corn tortillas.

When the fall semester begins, the team plans to make a pre­sen­ta­tion to the new class of first-​​year physi­cian assis­tant stu­dents to high­light their learning oppor­tu­nity in Guatemala, which they orga­nized and paid for them­selves. The team hopes to pique other stu­dents’ interest about making a trip of their own.

We hope to turn this into a North­eastern tra­di­tion,” Dabkowski said.