The University of Kansas School of Medicine’s lnternational Programs sends fourth year medical students for a one month elective in rural medicine in Paraguay. These students must be fluent in Spanish and request international experience. KPP provides support by helping arrange orientation to Paraguay and where appropriate, provide a base of operations for the visiting students at the Comité Paraguay Kansas (CPK). This program has helped acquaint students to the needs of a developing country and in some cases has been a turning point for their future careers. During 2008, an experienced Family Physician in private practice who is also a volunteer preceptor of medical students from the KU program is visiting Paraguay. The medical school in Paraguay will be able to learn how to use volunteer physicians to help train FP physicians during their residency and help model this learning/training concept. This physician will also be attending an international medical conference to be held in Asuncion. Background: In 1969, Governor Robert Docking led the first delegation to Paraguay accompanied by Edward F. Steichen MD, physician and Kansas State Representative. Dr. Steichen’s report regarding public health conditions stated, “I would estimate that 10% of the people have adequate care, 10% have mediocre care, leaving 80% who are desperately in need of upgrading in every type of care.” Three hundred fifty pounds of medicine and medical supplies and 5000 pounds of antibiotics accompanied this first introductory visit to Paraguay. An additional early step was supplying a nurse from Kansas to the National Psychiatric Hospital to help alleviate the urgent and appalling conditions existing for psychiatric patients. Subsequently, persons representing many psychiatric disciplines came to Kansas for training and Kansas professionals spent time in Paraguay helping upgrade the psychiatric care in Paraguay.
By 1980 the KPP program broadened to include general health concerns with Paraguayan nurses coming to Kansas to learn modern nursing skills. In 1985, an agreement was signed for an exchange of faculty between the University of Kansas School of Medicine and the Asuncion Medical School. The Director of the Community and Family Medicine Department at KUSM-W visited Paraguay and the Dean of the Paraguayan Medical School visited Kansas. This was the beginning of the focus on “Family Medicine” as an alternative to “specialty” medicine. It was determined this is a much more effective approach to meeting the rural needs of Paraguay. KPP also approached the citizens of Kansas with fundraising efforts to purchase a large computer to support the FP residency program. This computer not only handles the daily activities of operating a medical program, but it is also makes available professional journals and articles ( in Spanish) as part of the continuing education program for medical students and residents. Funds were also raised in Kansas to help remodel a waiting room for patients who are utilizing the residency clinic for their medical needs. Merrill F. Raber, MSW, PhD. KPP Health Chair