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100K Strong in the Americas Exchange Program Increases Global Health Opportunities for Students at Universidad de los Andes and Dornsife

Students visiting community serving organization in Philadelphia

September 7, 2023

With 100K Strong in the Americas Innovation funding from Colombia’s Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MinCiencias), CAF, Development Bank of Latin America and the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, the Dornsife School of Public Health (DSPH) and the Universidad de los Andes are working together to increase opportunities for student exchange and participation in global practicums focused on important issues in urban health, health equity and resiliency.

This partnership between DSPH and Universidad de Los Andes seeks to address global challenges in urban health and health equity by building the intercultural and technical skills of the next generation of public health researchers and practitioners.

Four students, all of which are students in undergraduate medical and/or engineering programs at the Universidad de los Andes, participated in a three-month summer exchange based in Philadelphia. Their names are Nicolle Wagner Gutierrez, Manuela Valenzuela Vieda, Holman Sierra Vega, and Leonardo Palencia Perez.

They participated in the Urban Health Collaborative’s (UHC) Urban Health Summer Institute upon starting the program. Next, they each participated in an internship working with a Drexel professor or a community-based organization in the city. They will continue their relationship with DSPH by collaborating with the Urban Health Network for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC-Urban Health) which is convened and coordinated by the UHC.

Sierra Vega worked with Esperanza in North Philadelphia, which offers programs that cultivate self-belief, grit, and knowledge acquisition, allowing clients and students to develop agency, voice, and influence over their own lives.

"I have learned from different perspectives on public health issues. I have seen firsthand the impact of strategies that have a focus on human rights advocacy, and I have worked hand in hand with the Hispanic communities in North Philadelphia,” Sierra Vega shared.

“These experiences with people from different latitudes have taught me how beautiful it is to offer something of our Colombian culture to others. This internship strengthened my knowledge to apply for a master's degree in public health at Uniandes in the future. Finally, I firmly believe in a phrase I heard from the Mandela Fellows, ‘from now on and for life we are dragons.’”

Kati Hinman, MA, a doctoral student in the department of Community Health and Prevention at DSPH, participated in the exchange program as well traveling to Buenaventura, Colombia. She conducted a research project on responses to violence in the city with Communities Building Peace in Colombia (CONPAZCOL) and their victim network. She led focus groups with various subpopulations from six Black/Afrodescendent and indigenous communities.

This research uncovered that many of the strategies to navigate violence and stay safe in a conflict context were collective, such as traveling in groups, telling loved ones where the person was going, maintaining relationships with neighbors and watching out for each other, or having “safe houses” as an option when moving around. She also spent time in Bogota with the Epiandes team at Universidad de los Andes, learning about their other projects designing and evaluating neighborhood interventions.

“Through the partnership with Uniandes, I was connected to many impressive Colombian academics with whom I was able to discuss the project and receive invaluable feedback. It has helped me grow my relationships in Colombia and my understanding of the context, preparing me to come back for dissertation work,” said Hinman. “I also learned about Uniande’s amazing public health work and I hope to be able to collaborate on projects with the researchers there in the future.”

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