Summer Abroad Global Health Internships


Status: Open—Limited Space Available!

Info Session: 2/7/18, 12:30pm
International Center 2119
Facebook Invite

Bolivia — Primary Care and Rural Medicine

On Location

Bolivia is a geographically diverse country home to both the Amazon jungle and Andes mountain range. This land-locked country in the heart of South America was formerly part of the Inca Empire and borders Brazil, Peru, Chile, Paraguay and Argentina. It is one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in Latin America.

This program is based in Tarija, a modern city in southern Bolivia known for its wineries, pleasant climate, and relaxed atmosphere. Residents identify more with the State of Tarija itself than the rest of Bolivia.Tarijeños have their own unique customs and way of life, influenced by Spanish and various indigenous cultures. Students will be in Tarija during a couple of well-known festivals, including the Virgen of Chaguaya and Festival of San Roque. Tarija offers universal health insurance, which can create high demand for services and strains on the system due to lack of personnel and equipment. Understand cultural and socioeconomic barriers patients face in accessing healthcare services and witness treatments for pathologies not commonly seen in North America, including parasitosis, tuberculosis, and Chagas. In addition to clinical rotations, participants can choose to volunteer at a local children’s shelter providing vocational training and social services for underserved youth.


Participants in Bolivia will be housed in a homestay with a local family. Homestay families live in middle class neighborhoods in close proximity to one another in the center of town. There are many shops, restaurants and cafes in the area. There will be two to three students per homestay (own room), depending on number of students at program site. Specific details about accommodations will be provided approximately 3 weeks prior to departure.

Homestays provide a unique opportunity to learn about local culture and practice Spanish skills on a daily basis in an informal setting. UC Davis reserves the right to change the accommodation location. Should this be necessary, we will arrange comparable lodging. Please note that elevators, air conditioners and other modern conveniences may not be available in all locations.


Two meals a day are included in the program: breakfast and a late lunch (2 PM).

Clinical Rotations
Sample schedule

Clinical rotations will start on Monday of the second week and usually take place in the mornings for 4 to 6 hours usually Monday through Friday for the remaining four weeks with Spanish language classes held in the afternoon (total 30 hours). Once a week students will meet with the Medical Director to discuss experiences at the clinics and hospitals. A lecture on a health related topics will also be provided. Students can use this time to discuss particular issues of interest, review their progress in clinic or bring up any concerns they may have. Clinical rotation sites include:

Regional Teaching Hospital

Offers services to the entire state, including people with limited resources and indigenous groups. Students will rotate with local physicians through specialties including pediatrics, surgery, cardiology, and internal medicine. There is high prevalence of Chagas in this region and cases are treated at this facility.

Primary Healthcare Centers

These clinics accept all patients regardless of ability to pay. Physicians and Nurses provide health education, family planning, disease detection, and basic primary care services including vaccinations and well child checkups. Students will learn about common diseases, seeing firsthand how poverty affects families’ access to health care, and rotate at one of two clinics or travel to a rural facility and conduct outreach and home visits within surrounding communities.

Chagas Clinic

Participants will rotate through three areas over the course of four days or more and learn the symptoms and progression of Chagas disease, observe the diagnosis and treatment, and identify the parasite under a microscope. The facility also conducts research on new medications and treatments.

Tertiary Government Hospital

Participants will rotate in internal medicine, OB/GYN, surgery, pediatrics, and oncology. The facility provides high quality care to working, middle class, and retired populations with government health insurance.

Center for Children & Adolescents (Optional)

This NGO provides underserved youth with meals, counseling, and job training in cooking, gardening, and electrical repair. Participants can volunteer teaching English, tutoring in reading and writing, and organizing art, music or sport classes depending on interests and personal skills.

Excursions and Day Trips

Short excursions and day trips will be included during orientation week.

Orientation Week Sample Schedule

  • 15 hours of Spanish classes
  • Walking tour of La Paz
  • Welcome dinner and cultural show in La Paz and Tarija
  • City tour of Tarija and site visit of main clinical sites Lecture about Bolivian culture and history, including overview of Tarija’s unique cultural identity
  • Full day tour of wine region, including lunch at regional winery
Study Abroad Advisory of Student Risk

Participation in this UC Davis Study Abroad program requires travel to and extended living in a foreign location(s) abroad. UC Davis Study Abroad endeavors to reduce and mitigate risk wherever possible.  However, the environments and risks associated with living in these locations are substantially different than those found during a regular course of study at UC Davis. All participants must download and review the following information prior to departure. Any questions should be directed to the Program Coordinator.

Study Abroad General Risk Advisory

Program Specific Risk Advisories (PDF)

About Tarija, Bolivia

Tarija's biggest drawcard is the vineyards on its doorstep and the city makes a great base for visiting the surrounding wineries in El Valle de la Concepción, home to the world´s highest wines and the throat-tingling singani (distilled grape spirit).

Tarija has some interesting colonial architecture and grows on those who stay a while to enjoy the pleasantly mild climate and take in the chilled atmosphere; the little city is as laid-back as they get, with palm-lined squares, sizzling Argentine barbecues, sprawling bar and cafe terraces, and tight streets with narrow pavements.

Source: Lonely Planet

Bolivian Currency: Bolivianos
Language Spoken: Spanish, Quechua, and Aymara are the most common of Bolivia’s 37 official languages

Weather and Climate
Research Your Destination