Serving in Peru Helped Students Grow Personally and Professionally

This past July, 28 Kettering College students and faculty/staff traveled to Peru for an International Medical Missions (IMM) trip. Students were immersed in a new culture and environment and were able to serve others who might not otherwise receive medical attention. Steve Carlson, Campus Ministries Director, says, “The IMM trips are one of the most mission-aligned opportunities we provide. Not only are students serving, but they are doing it with the focus of faith development and professional growth.”

The IMM trips were halted for nearly three years due to COVID-19 restrictions, and Carlson reports it was a welcome relief to finally be able to go. He states, “We expected to either have hardly anybody in the clinic (since people might be afraid to visit a place where other sick people might be) or tons of people (considering many hadn’t received care in years). We found the latter to be true, and more patients visited the clinic than were possible to see in our short visit. I’m so thankful we were able to give this experience to students, who in some cases had been waiting for years to attend.”

The students were equally as thankful for this life-changing experience. Heidi Oxentenko, a Physician Assistant (PA) Studies student, says the variety of experiences was her favorite part. She says, “Beyond going to Machu Picchu and seeing the Amazon, we immersed ourselves in a whole different culture and really got to experience the Peruvian life. I was also able to use the medical knowledge I’ve accumulated to actually make a difference in a few lives.”

Erin Brophy, an Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) student states her favorite part of the trip was her encounters with people. She says, “Not only the people of Peru who we served, but also my peers from Kettering and the staff really made my experience one to remember. I am so grateful to have been able to meet so many people with such a positive, uplifting spirit.”

She says she cannot think of another opportunity where she would be able to learn more than what she did by going on the trip. She says, “We learned so much about what’s important when interacting with other healthcare providers, how to do your job with (or without!) a translator, and much more. I could talk for hours about just how much I learned!”

PA student Heidi Oxentenko adds, “I saw a lot of cases I don’t think I will likely to see here in the US. I was reminded of the importance of holistic healthcare. We didn’t have all the resources we have available here, but even just patient education and taking a second to listen to their stories and acknowledge areas in their lives that could be different, made an impact for our patients. I hope to apply that same consideration in my future career.”  

Steve Carlson notes the most meaningful moments for him on these IMM trips occur as he witnesses the student growth that inevitably takes place. He says, “We met each night as a team, and students shared the things they saw in the clinic, and what that was teaching them about their professional development, as well as personal development. Because this is such a strange situation for our students to be in, they start asking the bigger questions about life, God, faith, priorities, and sometimes even their professional goals.”

Many times an IMM trip brings students’ values to the surface in a way that regular life hadn’t. 

-Steve Carlson

Student Heidi Oxentenko agrees that she has grown as a person and professional as a result of this trip. She says, “It was really incredible to see the impact we made. Little experiences like providing an ultrasound for a patient who had received no prenatal care, praying with a woman who just needed someone to listen, and pulling teeth from kids who were excited to eat again all meant so much in Peru. We take simple hygiene and medical care for granted sometimes and it is truly incredible and humbling to see how thankful people who don’t have those little things are for them when they receive them.”

The next IMM trip is scheduled for the Philippines in March during Kettering College’s spring break and Peru again in July 2023. Contact Steve Carlson if you’re interested in attending.

OTD student Erin Brophy encourages other students to attend, if they are able. PA student Heidi Oxentenko says it was an opportunity well worth taking. She adds, “There is nothing more fulfilling than working for God, and once you’ve tried it, you’ll be addicted in the best kind of way. 


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