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COM Clinic in Merida: First Two Months

Published: Friday, 12 Feb 2016
Author: Joy M Whitten
Department: Latin American Studies Center

"You must be an answer to my prayers!" one patient exclaimed to Dr. Catherine Donahue, director of the Osteopathic Medical Clinic in Merida, Mexico. 

The clinic, now open for 2 months, has its roots in a lecture by a MSU faculty member five years ago began a relationship that has led to educational exchange, research collaborations, and the first osteopathic medicine clinic in the state of Yucatan, Mexico.  Dr. Catherine Donahue, also an assistant professor of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine, serves as MSU liaison in the Yucatan.  She recounted the three goals of the relationship – educational exchange, research, and community outreach. 

MSU COM students began travelling to Merida for experience in global health where they learned about different disease processes, perspectives on health, and obtained an enriched cultural experience. Medical residents from Merida have also come to Michigan in this educational exchange program.  Currently in the works is a journal club between psychiatry students in Merida with MSU psychiatry residents.  The idea is to exchange and discuss ideas over video conferencing.

Research collaborations extend to all of MSU, not just COM.  A delegation from Merida and Yucatan visited in February to explore new collaborative projects where MSU can help and assist on issues of concern to the state of Yucatan.  For example, faculty have met to discuss water issues and how to identify the source of contamination to possibly work toward potable water one day.  The group also discussed the Zika virus.  Dr. Xi has technology that could allow for integrating a bacteria on the mosquito, the disease vector, to stem the Zika tide by vector control rather than just by trying to control human behavior and disease process.

Community outreach comprises the third goal of the MSU-Merida relationship and the clinic is a key component of that.  Doctors of osteopathic medicine do not have practicing rights in Mexico or many parts of the world. The clinic seeks to complement the established Mexican health system by providing a service that is not available while simultaneously educating others about the benefits of the osteopathic approach to medicine.

Services at the clinic have an affordable consultation fee.  On December 1, 2015 they opened and started seeing patients of all ages and a wide range of health disorders from the area to be evaluated for Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT). OMT can be used to ease pain, promote self-healing and restore motion to joints, muscles and tissues. Many of the patients may have mechanical or musculoskeletal issues such as neck pain or back pain. In addition to musculoskeletal conditions, Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine may benefit other disorders such as sinus issues, ear infections, asthma, respiratory problems, constipation, or migraines. Pregnant women come for relief to pain they may have associated with their pregnancy.  Dr. Donahue works with patients to support the body to attain the best health possible.  The clinic is based in the hospital so there is also access to many post-surgical patients that could benefit from OMT in restorative care to help get them moving more quickly with faster recovery. 

Clients have been very grateful for the clinic's services.   As a result, word of mouth has played a large role in people coming into the clinic with patients recruiting their families, co-workers and friends to be seen in the clinic. New patients have told her that they heard an interview she did on the local radio, or saw newspaper article about the clinic opening.  Hospital practitioners have also been receptive and have come to learn and experience the osteopathic approach.

This summer Dr. Donahue may teach a small course about osteopathic medicine at the university for Mexican medical students.  The clinic will be a stop for MSU students in Mexico for study abroad.  Dr. Donahue emphasizes there is a lot of potential for further collaborative work and academic development.  "It's been an amazing place to work...[there] is a great relationship between MSU and the state of Yucatan and I hope it continues to grow."