Last August, Northwestern audiology graduate students made the trek to Nuevo Progreso in western Guatemala to provide comprehensive care for the local residents. Over the course of four more-than-12-hour days, eight students worked alongside four professional audiologists. They performed diagnostic testing and hearing-aid fittings. Some patients walked 10 hours overnight to start lining up for care at 6 a.m. at Hospital de la Familia. The Northwestern team partnered with the nonprofit Entheos Audiology Cooperative.
For doctoral students Sarah Rosen and Andrew Burleson, their goal was to provide the specialized care that many of their patients lack.
Burleson helped fit a 17-year-old Guatemalan woman with a hearing aid. She later found him on Facebook and told him that because of his care, she planned to pursue higher education. She could now hear well enough to understand academic lectures.
“It’s one thing to read about the experience of providing care in a textbook,” Burleson says. “But it’s a whole other thing to actually do the work.”
For both Burleson and Rosen, this global experience influenced their career aspirations. Rosen hopes to continue to do audiology humanitarian work, while Burleson’s goal is to use the experience to found a startup or make humanitarian work part of his day-to-day routine.
In the future, both want to help students interested in providing global health care to afford the trip, which can cost $2,500 or more. Rosen and Burleson hope to encourage alumni of the trip to fundraise for students to go the following year.