Nicaragua Service Project Receives Physician Assistant Foundation Grant

Saje Davis-Risen, assistant professor in Pacific University’s School of Physician Assistant Studies, has received a $9,350 grant to support an interdisciplinary service-learning project in Nicaragua.

The grant is funded through the Robert K. Pedersen Global Outreach Endowment and established by the Don and Kathy Pedersen Family Foundation as part of the Physician Assistant Foundation. The funds will pay for student travel and necessary supplies for the Nicaragua Project.


An interprofessional team from the University’s College of Health Professions, in partnership with the Jessie F. Richardson Foundation, has collaborated in providing service to elders living in elder centers "hogares," which rely on foreign aid and assistance for funding and necessary services. The University has been providing this service opportunity to students and faculty since 2007. In 2009, the Physician Assistant Studies program first became involved.

The team assembles in early December, when students and faculty are on break between classes and travels to Managua, Nicaragua, for a 10-day service learning expedition. Six of those days are spent in direct care delivered to these elders who have often been abandoned by their families due to extreme poverty and when adult children leave the country seeking better employment opportunities. The elders residing in these centers disproportionally experience the long-term effects of poverty and poor health. Heart disease, diabetes, chronic pain, poor vision, preriodontal disease and lack of productive and leisure opportunities are common challenges amongst this population.

The College of Health Professions is uniquely situated to meet these healthcare, physical and psychological needs. Physician Assistant (PA) students perform health screenings and physical exams with residents, under the supervision of faculty PA-C or a local gerontologist, and treat injuries and illnesses, provide wound care, write prescriptions and document follow-up care plans. Dental students assess residents' needs for dental care, followed by dental screenings, extractions, debridement and fluoride treatments. Occupational and Physical Therapy students collaborate to provide exercise groups for residents, adapting exercises for those in wheelchairs and those of varying ability levels. They also assist clients in self-care and leisure activities, including nail care, social interaction activities and art. When direct services are provided by a discipline, an effort is made to have at least one student from another discipline participate as a way to learn more about the direct services provided by other professions.

"These students really work as an interprofessional team to provide care and to learn from each others' expertise," said Davis-Risen. "This is a unique opportunity for students to learn more about each other, the programs we have at the University, the other professions caring for elders, and other cultures and traditions."

Read more about the Nicaragua Project in the Spring 2012 issue of Pacific magazine.

About the Physician Assistant Foundation

The Physician Assistant Foundation develops and allocates resources that empower the physician assistant profession to impact the health and wellness of the communities it serves. The PA Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

Through its philanthropic endeavors, the PA Foundation strives to:

  • award scholarships to deserving PA students across the country to help alleviate the cost of education
  • provide grants to PAs and PA students who are making a difference in communities across the U.S.
  • support PAs who bring high-quality health care to underserved populations internationally
Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012