Traditional and Modern Medicine

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Traditional and Modern Medicine in the Andes

"As a med student with an interest in traditional systems this was a great opportunity to witness at first hand how traditional and modern medicine can work hand in hand. It was challenging at times as I had to refrain from imposing what I had learned on situations that maybe I did not fully understand. I recommend this to anyone working in health."

>This busy clinic is a not-for-profit foundation whose mission is to provide alternative medical care to the predominately indigenous population of Otavalo and surrounding areas. The clinic provides a combination of traditional indigenous and western medical care. They are committed to providing services with the utmost respect for indigenous culture, ensuring equal access to healthcare regardless of ethnicity.  Services include family practice, family planning, prenatal care, dental care, and massage therapy. Practitioners integrate biomedical and traditional knowledge during treatment of patients. Methods include natural treatments, spiritual cleansing, and traditional midwifery. Additionally, the clinic's staff travel to communities and facilitate community outreach and health education. 

The center is located in Otavalo, about 2 hours north of Quito by bus.

Range of tasks:
Medical skills or midwifery experience is useful. For maximum benefit, students should be at least in their second year of medical/nursing school. “Premed” students or individuals interested in public health should be prepared to observe and shadow practitioners while learning about integrative medicine. Qualified volunteers may assist the staff in taking patient information and vital signs, participate in basic patient preparations and care, and conduct community outreach. More experienced volunteers may take on more complicated tasks, however please note that all activities will controlled by the center staff and at the director’s discretions. Volunteers should not expect to attend births.
Time commitment:
Four weeks minimum
spanish level:
Intermediate or better
Work schedule:
Schedule to be arranged with the clinic. Treatment hours are Monday to Friday  8:30am to 1:00pm and 2:00pm to 5:00pm, Saturday 8:30am to 1:00pm
Homestay is available in Otavalo with breakfast and dinner included. Volunteers can also stay in one of the many hostals in Otavalo. Contact us for more information.
Skills required:
Cultural sensitivity, interpersonal skills. Good communication and language skills are very necessary in a medical setting. Medical skills or nursing/midwifery experience or an interest in a health field.
Accepted donations:
Medical supplies or any funds that volunteers are able to raise for the clinic are highly appreciated. Medical supplies should be new, unopened, and non-expired.