Rural Health Scholars College Students Serve Over Spring Break

Published: March 28, 2017 | Author: Karen Ganss | Read Time: 2 minutes

Rural Health Scholars in NicaraguaInstead of spending their spring break resting or going on vacation, students from Southern Utah University, Dixie State University, and Snow College helped others in meaningful, medical ways. In total, 46 students traveled with the Rural Health Scholars Program to underserved communities in Nicaragua, Las Vegas, and the Four Corners area.

Several students ventured out of the county to experience rural areas of Nicaragua, where they assisted in health clinics with impoverished populations. Southern Utah University student Vanessa VanWart said, “The health problems that Nicaraguans have are so different…there were a lot of issues due to parasites or dehydration, which are things we don’t usually have to deal with in the U.S.” All students who participated in the trip are pursuing careers in medicine, so it is important that they gain experience in serving others with very different cultural, language, and economic backgrounds. Through four days of health screenings in rural Nicaragua, they most definitely experienced quite a culture shock, and learned so much in the process.

Dixie State University student Rachel Seegmiller attended the Four Corners trip, and realized, “as a future healthcare provider, you have to learn to be able to work with people from all different backgrounds and all kinds of philosophies.” During the week students stayed in Blanding but traveled as far as Monument Valley to shadow healthcare providers with Utah Navajo Health Services. The goal of this immersion experience is to expose pre-health students to what it is like to practice medicine in a rural community with Native American populations. Seegmiller especially loved shadowing Navajo physicians to see their interesting perspective and how much they connect with their patients.

Rita Osborn, Director of the Utah Center for Rural Health, accompanied the students on the trip to Las Vegas, where her hope is that, “students learn what it is like to live and work in an urban, underserved healthcare setting” through this experience.  During this trip, students performed health screenings with homeless populations, shadowed healthcare providers, and even toured Nellis Air Force base to observe healthcare provider life in the military. In addition, students volunteered at various organizations including Shade Tree Women’s Shelter, 3 Square, Operation Clean the World, Opportunity Village, and the LBGTQ Center.

All students are from SUU who attended these trips are involved in the Rural Health Scholars Program, in which they receive support to succeed in their journey to a healthcare career.

The Rural Health Scholars Program is available at Southern Utah University, Dixie State University, Snow College, and Utah State University-Eastern in Price. Through a partnership with the University of Utah School of Medicine, this program assists students in becoming successful applicants to medical, nursing, podiatry, dental, pharmacy, and other health professions programs. Student applications are strengthened through a regimen of classes, seminars, community service, job shadowing, research and advisement. For more information about the Utah Center for Rural Health programs, visit


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