SRU students provide health care to low-income communities in Costa Rica


Students in Costa Rica

From left, Slippery Rock University students Taylor Tomko and Anika Nigam provide health care to a Costa Rican family at a clinic as part of a MEDLIFE service-learning trip.

May 30, 2024

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — A group of Slippery Rock University students that traveled to Costa Rica recently is evidence of the mutual benefits of service learning. Thirty-one students from the MEDLIFE chapter at SRU provided free health care to low-income communities in Costa Rica, May 11-19, by staffing several mobile clinics.

MEDLIFE, which stands for Medicine, Education and Development for Low Income Families Everywhere, is a non-profit organization that hires and trains local staff to partner with communities in Latin America and Africa to provide patient care, community development projects, and educational workshops. More than 150 students are members of the MEDLIFE chapter at SRU who gain valuable experience through service-learning trips and other workshops and opportunities.

For some, like Olivia Humphrey, a junior biology major from Reading, the trip to Costa Rica was her first time traveling abroad.

"Being able to help educates us on different areas of health care and makes us better people and physicians, but it also gives back to communities and helps make the world a better place," Humphrey said. "It was very eye-opening to see the conditions that people from different countries are living in and their health care system. People in the United States might take our health care system for granted, and in Costa Rica they're just very respectful and happy to have any help that they can get."

The SRU students stayed in the beachfront town of Tamarindo, popular for tourists, but traveled up to 90 minutes to neighboring communities to conduct rotations at four clinics. They also took part in a project day, helping make a visually impaired couple's home more accessible.

At the clinics, MEDLIFE staff and the SRU students provided much-needed medical relief and tests, such as checking blood pressure and measuring glucose levels, while also offering preventative care and educational programs, like teaching children how to brush their teeth. MEDLIFE provides the students meals and supplies, but each student pays their own travel costs which can exceed $2,500. Still, that's worth it for the experience and the opportunity to help.

"I've always been interested in going into health care and being able to get involved with the community," said Humphrey, an aspiring pharmacist who logged 40 total hours of work during the trip. "(The MEDLIFE trip) is a good way for me to get patient hours, (physician) shadowing hours and community service hours that I will need when applying for graduate school, in addition to the skills that we need in the future."

Mary Ann Holbein-Jenny, professor of physical therapy, accompanied the students on the trip, as well. The MEDLIFE chapter at SRU takes at least one service-learning trip each year during the semester break.

More information about MEDLIFE at SRU is available on the organization's CORE page, which is an online platform for SRU student organizations and activities.

Students in Costa Rica

A total of 31 SRU students partnered with MEDLIFE to provide health care to people in Costa Rica.

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal  | 724.738.4854  |