INSIDE BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY
Decker student moves forward with plan to open clinic in Iquitos, Peru
By : Cait Anastis
For nursing student Ann Campbell, winning $25,000 in Visa’s “Ideas Happen” competition to help build a medical clinic in Iquitos, Peru, was just the first step.
Campbell — working on a documentary and art exhibit to bring back to Binghamton to give area residents a chance to understand and interact with the project — is also is working to raise an additional $100,000 for the clinic before returning to South America in spring 2006.
Working with Advent Film in Binghamton and Amazon Promise, a group of healthcare workers in Peru, she is starting to see the project move forward. “We’re looking at March or April of next year,” she said. “We’re going to be building a clinic from the ground up. We have the land donated and we’re working on getting the permits, and we’re working on raising additional funds. By the time we get down there, we’re hoping to be ready to build. It’s still quite a bit of money that we’re trying to come up with, but I think we’ll do it.”
Campbell, who earned her first degree in studio art with an international studies certificate from Harpur College in 2004, plans to graduate from the Decker School of Nursing’s Baccalaureate Accelerated Track (BAT) program in August.
She first traveled to Peru during the summer of 2002, as part of a Rainforest Health Project, working with doctors who traveled by boat up tributaries of the Amazon to set up clinics.
“I expected that I was going to learn a lot when I went down, and I did,” she said. “People really opened their hearts to us to come into their community and treat them. It was a very connecting experience. I didn’t feel like an outsider when I went there; I felt like I was hanging out with friends.” Because of her interest in alternative forms of medicine, she also took the opportunity to learn more about the work of local shamen.
“I didn’t explore it too much, but I was able to see ceremonies, and I got to ask a lot of questions,” she said. “You’ve got them on every block. There are some very good practitioners, and some questionable practitioners, just like here, but it is their form of medicine.” The shamen interact with spiritual aspects of the human being and look for the meaning behind the disease, she said.
“The shamen have a real sort of guiding hand in the community,” she said, “and a good shaman is going to be looking out for the best interests of the people who come to him.” One of the doctors she worked with had an interest in Chinese medicine and was starting to integrate acupuncture into his practice, so she also had a chance to see how that fit into the bigger picture of healing in the community. Her learning experience sparked the idea that won the “Ideas Happen” competition.
“The first summer I was there,” she said, “we talked about opening up a health clinic in the city. There is a hospital there, but it wasn’t accessible to most people.”
In her “Ideas Happen” entry, she described Iquitos as “the largest city in the world you can’t drive to. It’s infra-structure collapsed when the rubber tree was exportedů the collapsed economy has left a scar of poverty and illness throughout the city.”
Her plan is to work with the existing network of doctors and volunteers, setting up the clinic in one of the poorest parts of the city. Campbell hopes the project will be something that gives back to everybody, as a means of improving the lives of the people the clinic will serve, as an educational tool for the community and as a point of pride for the Decker School of Nursing. One of the things Campbell hopes to do with the different aspects of the project is combine art and health care to explore the interplay of culture. For instance, she hopes that when people see the documentary and art exhibit, they will think about the culture they are living in and changes that can be made.
“You’re dealing with people’s emotions, you’re dealing with people’s well being and you’re dealing with people’s physical health. You’re sculpting people’s environments,” she said. “For me, that’s where nursing and art come together.”