The Peru Health Outreach Project (PHOP) was founded in 2009 by five Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine students with the goal to help underserved communities in Peru. The students partnered with Peruvian Hearts, a small Colorado-based non-governmental organization, which operated the Lamay Clinic in the Sacred Valley region of Peru. Since that time, PHOP has also partnered with the Peruvian American Medical Society and provides services at their clinic in Chincha Alta, Peru (approximately three hours south of Lima.) The last time PHOP visited the Sacred Valley was in 2018.
The mission of PHOP is to provide outreach with notable and sustainable benefits to both project participants and target communities in the underserved regions of Peru through education, research, service and sustainable partnerships.
Various types of physicians and health care providers have joined—various specialties, nurses, nurse practitioners, dental students, physical therapists, and more. Over the years, group sizes have ranged from 15 to 70 participants.
Each year the PHOP team develops a health fair with curated stations that provides health screening and education. Stations commonly include blood pressure, blood sugar, anemia, and vision screening. Other stations over the years have included dental health, back health, nutrition, sanitation and hygiene, sexual health, CPR, and others.
PHOP medical students have also presented educational materials at local schools in our Peruvian host communities.
Initially PHOP focused more on clinical outreach, however over the years it has focused more on partnering with local healthcare organizations, education, and community engagement, as these are more effective and sustainable endeavors.
For example, PHOP’s partnering clinic in Chincha Alta, Peru has capability for mammogram, colonoscopy, and PAP testing. In 2019, our team worked with the clinic to develop screening protocols to determine a patient’s eligibility for these tests and during the health fair PHOP participants were able to screen and be referred for testing services at the clinic.
Over the years, PHOP has fundraised thousands of dollars to sustain itself and to continue the work of sustainable global health initiatives. Fundraising efforts have included an annual gala, restaurant nights, apparel sales, online campaigns, silent auctions, etc. PHOP has collected and donated many toothbrushes/toothpaste, eyeglasses, and shoes.
PHOP and the COVID-19 Pandemic
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic there was not a PHOP trip in 2020 or 2021, however, a virtual elective for Cleveland and Cusco medical students was created: the Cleveland Cusco Connection (CCC). In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it remains unclear when PHOP will be able to visit Peru in the future—but PHOP remains dedicated to providing opportunities for international collaboration and global health education.