Study Abroad Programs Menu
July 9-23, 2016
Graduate & Pharmacy Programs
Graduate Students Take to the Amazon
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This year, as you walk around the campus and hear the words “weeds and seeds,” you won’t be listening to a conversation about gardening. You’ll be hearing students and faculty talking about GAI’s medicinal plant program in the Peruvian Amazon. Each summer students from Colleges of Pharmacy around the U.S. travel to Iquitos, Peru to participate in this unique workshop on medicinal plants and natural medicine.
The course combines on-campus study with a two-week field program in the Amazon rainforest. While in the Amazon, students attend classes in ethnobotany, pharmacology, pharmacognosy, and toxicology at the National Institute for Traditional Medicine (IMET) and workshops on medicinal plants and agronomy at the National University of the Peruvian Amazon’s Institute of Research (UNAP/IIAP). In addition, they attend sessions with local pharmacists, visit local herbal markets and meet a variety of purveyors of natural medicine. A highlight of the program for students is the many excursions they take to a variety of towns, sites and peoples of the Amazon, including a canoe trip down the Amazon to the Yanamono district, which includes camping on the Amazon and a night at the luxurious Heliconia Jungle Lodge.
The program is hosted by the Global Awareness Institute, a Florida-based non-profit organization dedicated to developing medicinal plants of the Amazon as a sustainable industry. Founder, Dr. Barbara Brodman, explains that medicinal plants can provide the basis for a network of sustainable industries that will create jobs and income for residents of the region while, at the same time, teaching them that saving the rainforest is essential to their personal well-being now and for the future. Destroying the rainforest will eliminate those opportunities forever. “It is our mission as a non-profit organization – and my personal quest – to help prevent our reaching a point of no return in the next few years; an outcome that is all too probable if we don’t act now,” explains Brodman. To that end, GAI has brought groups of university students to Iquitos since 1999. “Once they have seen and experienced the rainforest, most students become deeply committed to saving it,” states Brodman, “and that is the other side of our mission as an NGO: to create a legion of young leaders and professionals worldwide whose values and visions reflect a genuine commitment to saving this beautiful planet of ours.”
Prof. Dean Arneson, one of the program’s faculty escorts, explains that “students who have participated in the program have developed a better understanding and a deeper appreciation of the culture of Peru. They realize how important the rainforest is to the environmental health of the world. The students learn how the rainforest is a supply of medicines that have been used much longer than the traditional North American medicines that they learn about.
“They enjoy the experience of being in a living laboratory and describe it as an educational experience that could never be duplicated in the classroom. The students describe that the experience they enjoy the most and will always remember is the warm and friendly people of Iquitos, and everyone claims they will come back someday to renew old friendships.”
Professor/Escort Dr. Ruth Nemire emphasizes that “students who participate in this course begin to learn and understand medicine from its roots. The public is hungry for “natural medicine” information. Completing a course like this helps…to feed that need with accurate and insightful information.”
Students and faculty who participated in past programs on GAI’s 92-acre reserve and research center in Iquitos eagerly pass the word to others. Past participant, Jackie Sauve, points out that “a trip to the Amazon to spend two weeks in the heart of the Peruvian rainforest is a once in a lifetime opportunity. This rotation opened my eyes to the enormous possibilities for the use of medicinal plants in the treatment of diseases. We were witness to several patients of IMET who are continually being treated for serious disease, and these patients are becoming healthier. I now have a much deeper and profound appreciation for the rainforest and our planet as a whole. I understand the dire position that we as a population have put our planet in, and through this trip, I have learned several ways that I can help to improve our situation. I have made friends for life, I have made memories that I will cherish forever, and I hope many others will get the chance to experience the amazing adventure our group had this year.”
Another student, Michelle Walker, points out that the experience is one that stays with students long after they return from Peru. “I am eager to share what I may, I will have written at least forty pages on my experiences and done a minimum of three separate presentations to three different audiences. Of course, I will also brag about my experiences to friends and family (and whoever else is willing to listen). Thank you for providing me with this amazing opportunity. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.” GAI looks forward to welcoming you all; for, as Brodman puts it: “Just when you think that hope is running out for the planet, you meet students like these and you rejoice.”