Support for UConn Global Health Scholar

Carolina Vicens-Cardona in Panama
UConn MD/MPH candidate Carolina Vicens-Cardona is studying cultural barriers to health care delivery in Panama. (Photo provided by Carolina Vicens-Cardona)

Carolina Vicens-Cardona, an M.D./MPH candidate in the UConn School of Medicine and the UConn Health Graduate School, is the 2019 recipient of the Maria and Edward P. Hargus, M.D., Professor Judy Lewis Global Health Education Scholarship.

The award is given to support the efforts of students conducting research, language study, and clinical or community health in an international setting. It will support Vicens-Cardona, whose interest in global health, in her thesis research project, which goes back to before her matriculation at UConn Health.

As an undergraduate, she traveled to Panama to volunteer with Floating Doctors, a nonprofit that provides health care to remote indigenous Ngäbe communities.

“During her initial three-month experience, she noted many cultural barriers to healthcare delivery, and found that issues related to family planning and contraception were particularly culturally complex,” says Lynn Puddington, director of medical student scholarship and research. “Through her research, Carolina has demonstrated not only intellectual curiosity, but caring, empathy, and a genuine desire to improve the lives of others. She is a very worthy recipient of this award.”

Vicens-Cardona, a third-year medical student, returned to Panama after her first year of medical school to work with the same Ngäbe communities for her summer research project, aimed at improving the family planning program of Floating Doctors. She used what she learned from the study to create culturally appropriate family planning guidelines for this population.

For her MPH thesis, she plans to return to Panama to conduct additional research to gain deeper understanding of the interface between religious beliefs and cultural practices related to sexuality, motherhood and family in the Ngäbe communities.

“I am very excited and grateful to have received this award,” Vicens-Cardona says. “I have been working on this project for the past several years and this award will allow me to complete my research. It will also give me an opportunity to continue working with the Ngäbe community and with a variety of health care professions with the goal of providing better family planning services for this population. I’m very thankful to have this opportunity!”