Hands On International Experience for WSU Pre-Med Students


Hospital De Cirugia San Vicente De Paul – Zacapa, Guatemala

A cohort of 15 pre-med students from Washington State University traveled to Zacapa, Guatemala to volunteer their time with a non-profit organization – Hearts In Motion. During this seven-day mission trip, students work alongside volunteer doctors and medical team. Students travel to Hospital De Cirugia San Vicente De Paul to assist doctors perform pro bono surgeries. Behind these doors, some students stepped into an OR for the first time, witnessed their first surgeries and had the opportunity to scrub in and assist with surgery. Washington State University’s Natasha Saric and Noah Hunthausen were a couple students who got to scrub into surgeries.


Dr. Mark Paxton out of Spokane, Washington teaching Resident Brian Christiansen.


Student Noah Hunthausen assisted Dr. Paxton in a bottom cleft lip and chin repair.

Noah Hunthausen a Zoology major with an emphasis on pre-med had never been involved in a surgery before. Dr. Paxton let him assist with suturing during the lip and chin repair shown above. I had the opportunity to observe Noah while he assisted in surgery and I could see the focus and concentration in his eyes.

Noah said, “the trip reinforced and strengthened my desire to become a doctor and also changed some of the goals I have set for my career.”

Noah is now intrigued in the thought of practicing medicine abroad in countries that are lacking the necessary resources to care for their people.

Senior Natasha Saric added, “the resources in Guatemala were limited and seeing how well the medical team persevered and made do with what they had was inspirational.”

Doctors and volunteers have to bring their own medical instruments and equipment. Almost everything used for pre-op, surgery, and recovery were all brought from the United States by volunteers.


Natasha had the chance to be in the local anesthesia OR where she was able to utilize her Spanish minor and interact with patients. Natasha was touched by their level of gratitude and happiness they shared with her.


Mother holding her child after a cleft palette repair

WSU School of Biological Sciences Dr. Kathy Beerman says, “students are exposed to a culture that greatly appreciates and benefits from this mission and return with a greater appreciation for the opportunities we have in life, and more fully understand the consequences of poverty.”

The Hearts In Motion mission provides students with the opportunity to engage, learn, practice and serve the people of Guatemala. This is a unique hands on opportunity for students to interact with doctors and patients in the professional field they will soon be entering.


Poverty and Disparity; Visiting the Dump


The very first day we went out to serve the country of Guatemala, our hosts took us to a village that was unlike anything I have ever seen. Hundreds of people were living in the poorest of conditions – literally a garbage dump. Their only source of food was what they could scavenge for in piles and piles of trash.


The heat in this part of the country was so intense some piles of trash would catch on fire. Styrofoam, plastic bottles, and more creating fumes that children and families breath in every single day.


The village’s livestock is often times sick or diseased and cannot be used as a source of food. They have no jobs, no education and no source of income.  Their only hope for survival is selling handmade crafts, fruits and being fed by missionary trips and volunteers that travel to their village.


Their houses are built from what they can find in the trash. Most of the houses were comprised of large pieces of cardboard and tarps. If you were lucky, you found a large piece of tin you could use as a sturdy wall.


Everyday, they sit and wait for buses to travel down their long dirt road. When they see buses, they know there will be food. They run down to meet the volunteers and wait in line to be given their source of food for the day.


“You do not truly know what you were born into until you witness what others have to struggle through to simply survive on a day-to-day basis.” -HIM Volunteer Ryan Feser

If you would like to donate to Hearts In Motion please click here.

Homestead Ministries Donates 200 lbs. of Beans.

Tom Riedner and Greg Nolan of Homestead Ministries came to Washington State University to donate 200 pounds of bean soup. WSU Students and Homestead Volunteers packed, stamped, and sealed all of the lentils to take with them to Guatemala.


Homestead Ministries created a label specifically for this trip with ingredients and a cooking procedure that is translated into Spanish. WSU Students will take these bags and distribute them to families in the medical clinics and villages they will be visiting. One bag will feed up to six people.

Homestead Ministries is non-denominational Christian faith-based organization that purchases “off-grade” beans at a reduced cost because they cannot be sold in commercial markets. While still holding the same nutritional value, these off-colored beans are usually used for livestock and manufacturing other domestic feeds. Founders Tom and Greg now have the ability to donate these beans to soup kitchens and mission trips such as Hearts In Motion.


200 bags are packed and ready to take flight!


On behalf of Washington State University and the Hearts In Motion program, thank you for your donation Homestead Ministries.