Morgan Pace Reflection – Mental Healthcare in Oaxaca, Mexico

Center for Global Health
May 13, 2024

Morgan Pace is a College of Health Professions student at MUSC. She was awarded a Center for Global Health Student & Trainee Travel Grant in early 2024 to pursue a project with Children Family Health International in Oaxaca, Mexico. View more photos of Emily's time in Mexico in this Flickr photo gallery.

I arrived in Oaxaca, Mexico, in January of 2024. I was immediately greeted with immense hospitality from my host mother and host family. She invited me into her home and I had the privilege of eating breakfast and lunch with her family and other students for 11 weeks. It was at that table that I got to see first hand just how important family and togetherness is in Mexican culture. For 11 weeks, it felt as if we all had the same last name. 

Each week I went to a different clinic in the area. Usually these clinics were in small pueblos outside of Oaxaca City. These consisted of but were not limited to: Centro De Salud-San Augusto Yaterni, Centro de Rehabilitación Infantil Teletón, Hospital General Dr. Aurelio Valdivieso and Centro de Salud Villa de Zachila. I spent my mornings here each week shadowing a variety of healthcare professionals from occupational therapists, speech therapists, medical doctors, nurses and even psychologists. It was here that I experienced the heart of my capstone project, “Mental Healthcare in Oaxaca, Mexico: Understanding the Perspectives of Healthcare Providers and Clients to Improve Access to Mental Health Services.”

At each clinic I interviewed various clinicians on what they felt their role in mental health care was, what interventions they used, and how they felt occupational therapists played a role in mental healthcare. It was through these informal interviews I truly got a new perspective of the Mexican healthcare system and was able to better understand the services being provided to clients. Each week I would make a specific education tool for the clinic’s team. These tools ranged from emotional regulation children book recommendations, flyers portraying occupational therapy’s scope of practice and handouts listing local resources for counseling sessions clients could seek out.

In addition to my homestay and clinical rotations, I also engaged in 90 hours of Spanish class at a local school called “Becari Language School.” Upon embarking on my journey to Mexico, I barely spoke any Spanish. This was a real challenge for me as I wanted to further connect and build relationships with the people of Oaxaca. Everyday after the clinic, I would spend two hours in a one-on-one setting with my Spanish teacher.

By the end of my 11 weeks, I “graduated” Spanish school at an intermediate conversational level! This is something I am very proud of as I hope to be able to serve Spanish speaking clients as an occupational therapist in the United States in my upcoming career.