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.



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