Maternal-fetal indigenous health in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

General Project Information
Type of Project: 
Date of Experience: 
10/20/2012 to 12/16/2012
Project Description: 

The Centre for Sensory Impairment, Aging and Metabolism (CeSSIAM) is a well-established research institute based in Guatemala City with a satellite office in country’s second largest city, Quetzaltenango. There, among the Mam Maya of Guatemala’s Western highlands, Dr. Anne Marie Chomat, a specialist in infectious disease, instructor and staff physician at Tufts University, and doctoral candidate at McGill, has based her Ph.D. thesis project. Her thesis investigates the causes of low birth weight among eight rural Mam communities, interrogating the problem from such diverse angles as maternal social stressors, burden of parasitic infection, and perinatal nutrition. Working with a locally-based team of community health workers, nutritionists, midwives and physicians, Dr. Chomat is conducting pre-natal and post-partum physical exams, questionnaires, and collecting saliva, breast milk, feces and urine samples from each of 150 participants and their newborns to better understand why this community experiences the highest rates of severely underweight newborns in the region.

Student Experience
First Name: 
Last Name: 
Description of Student Experience: 

As a student, I was welcomed as part of the research team. I assisted with clinical exams in the field, data entry in the office, and shadowed for two weeks at the local public hospital. I also completed a series of focus groups and semi-structured interviews to investigate barriers to health care access among indigenous patients in this region, a project which I am now in the process of publishing. I benefited from the guidance of both Dr. Chomat, with her international experience in diverse health care settings, and local midwives, nutritionists, and community health workers. As the work is conducted entirely in Spanish, I was well-supported in improving my Spanish language skills.

Organization Information
Name of Organization: 
Centre for Sensory Impairment, Aging and Metabolism (CeSSIAM)
Description of Site: 
Rural communities, health care offices, and hospitals of Quetzaltenango
San Juan Ostuncalco and Quetzaltenango
Minimum Time Commitment: 
8 weeks
Dr. Chomat's research project will be coming to an end in 2013, so there will be no further research elective opportunities with this project specifically, though CeSSIAM is often open to applications from interested students to assist with their ongoing projects.
Main Language Spoken: 
Other Language(s) Spoken: 
English, Mam
Other Information
Funding Source: 
McGill Global Health Programs
Program Cost: 
Hours Worked per Week: 

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