Participate in a service-learning study abroad course in Mexico with the Mandel School

Karen Rosenberg, an alumna of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, recently returned from organizing a diabetes clinic in Yucatán, Mexico. There, she led a team of bilingual social workers, nurses, nutritionists and allied health professionals from the United States, working with Mexican doctors, social workers, nurses, nutritionists, paramedics and EMTs. 

“Complications from diabetes is now the primary cause of death in Mexico,” Rosenberg said. 

More than 500 patients were served in the screen clinic she established. Health care professionals took some initial medical history. Some of the patients wanted to be tested, but most already had been diagnosed with diabetes by a public health clinic. Many are taking medications, with some on insulin. There also are walk-ins who are diagnosed and untreated. 

Because patients do not have access to expensive glucometers or strips, the main emphasis of the clinic is to teach patients how to manage their disease through nutritional and health education, teaching them how to manage their blood sugars using glucometers and strips, which are distributed for free. 

“We had about 28% of patients who had blood sugars higher than 300,” she said.

Interested in a similar service-learning experience? By participating in the Social Work: Social Services in Isla Mujeres, Mexico (SASS 575) study abroad course, students will have the opportunity to work at this public health clinic, along with other service-learning projects.

Other projects include a women’s beading cooperative, a group home for abandoned and neglected children and a school for individuals with special needs. Mexican social workers and psychologists will discuss local programs that address domestic violence, child trafficking, mental health and addiction. Participants will meet with Red Cross first responders to talk about secondary trauma, a local anthropologist, and a family constellation systems therapist. The team will start the day with small-group Spanish classes at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.

On the final evening, the group will participate in a seven-course walking food tour through the neighborhoods of Isla Mujeres, highlighting Yucatán cuisine. Participants also will have the opportunity to take a beaded jewelry-making class, batik art class and Mexican cooking class. 

The travel and study course is led by Victor Groza, Zoe Breen Wood and Karen Rosenberg.

Learn more about the course.

For more information contact Valerie Rambin, assistant director of international education programs at the Mandel School, at