Peru MHIRT Site

Peru MHIRT-Peru’s research agenda involves the medicinal plants used to treat disease by the curanderos, (healers) of the North Coastal Region of Peru. Laboratory studies in biochemistry are conducted at the Facultad de Ingeniería Química of the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo (UNT) and medical anthropology surveys are carried out in the field with the patients of curanderos, Es Salud (the Peruvian national health care system), and local hierbateros (herbalists). Since we have two approaches to medicinal plants, each year the principal research focus rotates between biochemistry and medical anthropology. MHIRT-Peru is co-directed by Dr. Gail Willsky from the University at Buffalo (SUNY) School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and Dr. Douglas Sharon, Adjunct Professor at San Diego State University (Latin American Studies) and the University at Buffalo (Anthropology). MHIRT students work with our Peruvian colleagues and other summer students from all over the United States. All participants in MHIRT-Peru live together in a hostel in the coastal town of Huanchaco on the outskirts of Trujillo, both located in the lower Moche River Valley. As part of their cultural experience they have an opportunity to conduct participant-observation in healing ceremonies carried out by a local curandera and to explore the nearby Moche (Temples of the Sun & Moon) and Chimu (city of Chan Chan) archaeological sites. In 2018 they will also be visiting traditional communities in the upper valley which have recently worked with an environmental group, Nature & Culture International (NCI) to set aside large tracts of community land as Areas de Conservacion Ambiental (ACAs). The grant provides airfare, room & board, and a stipend. MHIRT-Peru 2018 (June 1 to Aug 15) will involve part-time participation in ongoing laboratory studies at the National University of Trujillo.  However, the major focus of the project will be medical anthropology surveys to determine knowledge and use of medicinal plants in local communities (Huanchaco & Huanchaquito) as well as ethnographic and ethnobotanical documentation of related curandero customs and beliefs. Also, there will be some work in local medicinal plant markets and community gardens at the Chan Chan site-museum, an Es-Salud clinic, and possibly in upper valley communities. Requirements: An applicant should be a member of a racial and ethnic group under-represented in biomedical research (see explanation in Program Overview) and have two years of course work in a major related to biomedical or behavioral health science with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and junior or senior class status. Previous undergraduate research experience, course work or mentoring in medical anthropology, and Spanish language proficiency are highly recommended. Before departing for Peru participants are required to complete an on-line ethics course and participate in a subsidized orientation conference at SDSU. Two papers on their summer work are required: a cultural experience report and a research paper.  

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