Community Health in Oaxaca

Photo of building in Oaxaca

Program Quick Facts

Location: Oaxaca, Mexico

Faculty Leader: Dr. Gabriel Garcia

Arrival Date in Oaxaca (tentative): August 1, 2016

Departure Date from Oaxaca (tentative): August 27, 2016

Information Session: Friday, October 30, 2015 | 12:00pm-1:00pm | Sweet Hall, Ground Floor, Room 020

Application Opens: November 1, 2015

Application Deadline: January 17, 2016

Missed the information session? Watch the recorded version now!


This unique service-learning program will provide students with a deep understanding of the social, economic, and cultural factors impacting the health of Mexicans and Mexican im/migrants to the United States. Students will also broaden public health knowledge, increase linguistic competency in Spanish, and gain exposure to health care systems and clinical interactions in another culture. The program will incorporate both opportunities for close observation of clinicians at work in community health settings in Oaxaca, and service with local community organizations. Structured reflection sessions will support students in integrating their studies with their clinical observations and service work.

The on-site program in Oaxaca combines classroom study and discussion with cultural immersion, language training, clinical rotations, and community service.

Upon completion of this program, students are able to:

  • Describe the Mexican healthcare system, including governmental and nongovernmental programs and other community assets that aim to improve the health for those most in need;
  • Identify cultural, socioeconomic and educational factors that impact the health of Mexicans and Mexican immigrants to the United States; and
  • Incorporate an understanding of Mexican cultural and health beliefs to better serve the needs of the immigrant Latino community in the U.S

All student participants will be required to take a pre-trip Spring quarter course, MED 259: Oaxacan Health on Both Sides of the Border. At the completion of the summer program, each student will submit a final written assignment integrating knowledge and experiences acquired through both the Spring Quarter course and the Oaxaca-based program. In preparation for return to the U.S., students will be strongly encouraged and supported in applying their new skills and knowledge on behalf of the large and underserved Bay Area Latino immigrant population. An Autumn quarter group meeting will serve to further debrief and integrate experiences on both sides of the border.

The weekly onsite program will generally include:

  • 6-8 hours of classroom instruction and discussion
  • 6-8 hours of Spanish language instruction
  • 12-15 hours of clinical rotations through local community health centers and hospitals
  • Up to 12 hours of community service in one of several partnering community health organizations
  • Select cultural events and educational trips


The southern Mexican city of Oaxaca sits nearly a mile above sea level at the intersection of three central valleys. It is a truly unique colonial city, steeped in history and tradition. Sixteen distinct ethnic groups enrich the local culture with diverse crafts, cuisine and celebration. The intersection of different cultures and healthcare practices creates a rich learning environment.

Oaxaca is also one of the poorest states in the country, and many of its inhabitants have limited access to even rudimentary health care services. Migration from Oaxaca to California has increased in recent years making it an ideal community for study of the impact of migration on health.

Students in this program will observe the Mexican healthcare system and clinical interactions in a range of public and private health care settings. They will visit traditional medicine practitioners and have the chance to work with non-governmental agencies working to address community health needs. Through partnerships with Child Family Health International and the Becari Language School, students are placed in homestays close to the historical city center and enjoy top-quality Spanish language instruction.

Living and Travel Conditions

Students should understand that the conditions in certain overseas locations can present difficulties and challenges not encountered here at Stanford University. Students should be prepared for a varying level of lodging, lack of amenities, new climate, new foods, and having less privacy and personal space than they are used to at the home campus.

Students on this program will be placed in homestays located throughout the city in the same general proximity of several hospitals, clinics and the language school. Students may have to share rooms with other students. All host families will be arranged and screened through the Becari Language School. Food varies from homestay to homestay. Dietary selections may be limited, thus students with severe dietary restrictions should carefully evaluate their ability to participate comfortably.

Students who have concerns about the specific living and traveling conditions should consult with the Bing Overseas Studies Program before submitting their application.

Cost and Travel

Students will pay a program fee of $800. The program fee covers lodging from the arrival date through the night prior to departure, 14 meals at the home stay per week, a modest stipend for an additional 7 meals per week, and all program activities. Students must arrange and pay for their own round-trip transportation to Oaxaca, Mexico, paying for any extra food beyond the two meals per day included in the program and will also be responsible for some minimal local transportation costs (bus fare or taxi) to get to clinical sites and all personal and incidental expenses. Some financial assistance towards the $800 program fee may be available from BOSP for students with demonstrated financial need as determined by the Financial Aid Office. Students who are eligible for this program fee waiver will be notified by BOSP after they get accepted or waitlisted for this program. Please contact the Financial Aid Office directly if you wish to discuss the possibility of student loans.


Dr. Gabriel Garcia, ( is Professor of Medicine, and former Faculty Director of the Haas Center for Public Service and Associate Dean of Medical School Admissions at Stanford University School of Medicine. He grew up in Puerto Rico with an immigrant family from Cuba. A hepatologist in the liver transplant program and clinical researcher by training, he teaches 3 undergraduate courses: MED 157, a Foundations in Community Health Engagement class, a year-long service-learning course Med 257 entitled Community Health Advocacy Fellowship, and Med 258 and Med 258 Legislative and Media Advocacy. He is the faculty advisor for Alternative Spring Break trips on Health Care for Marginalized Communities in the California Central Valley and American Indian Health in the Rosebud reservation.

Enrollment Capacity

15 undergraduate students

Eligibility and Application

Students who have participated in an Overseas Seminar in the past or are participating in an Overseas Seminar in the summer of 2016 ARE eligible to apply for and participate in this BOSP Special Program.

All Stanford undergraduates in good academic standing with 45 credits by the end of Spring Quarter prior to the program are eligible to participate. Seniors or Co-Terms are eligible as long as they do not have their undergraduate degrees conferred before the end of Summer Quarter. International students should check with the Bechtel International Center whether or not their status will allow them to be enrolled for a course over the summer.

The application deadline for the Community Health in Oaxaca Program is January 17th, 2016. Applications will be reviewed by a selection committee. To determine an applicant’s qualifications, standing at the University, and readiness to participate in the program, the following offices may be consulted:

  • Residential Education
  • Office of Accessible Education
  • Undergraduate Advising and Research
  • Office of Judicial Affairs
  • Vaden Health Center/Counseling and Psychological Services

NOTE: Vaden will not share confidential health information with the program, but may identify a concern with an applicant’s readiness to participate, to be further addressed with the applicant.

BOSP reserves the right to revoke admission at any point prior to the program should there be any changes to student’s qualifications, standing at the University, and readiness to participate in the program. BOSP will notify the student should there be any concerns, if the student is no longer eligible to participate in the program.

Prerequisites and Expectations

Selected program participants are required to enroll during Spring Quarter in MED 259: Oaxacan Health on Both Sides of the Border. The pre-trip course will prepare students for the summer program through the study of Oaxacan history, culture, politics, community leadership and health practices. We will also look at the unique nature of Oaxacan migration and the health challenges that migrants face on both sides of the border. The course also provides students with the knowledge and insight to make connections between their experiences in Mexico and their health-related work with Bay Area members of the Mexican trans-border community. PLEASE NOTE: You must be on-campus Spring Quarter.

In order to get the most out of the community-engagement portion of the program, students are required to have at least one year of college Spanish (Spanlang 3 or 2A) or pass a placement test (written and oral) at the beginning of Winter Quarter. The verbal portion of the placement exam is on February 9th, 2016 at 5:15pm. Click HERE for more details. Preference will be given to Spanish language capable students with a strong interest in and commitment to community health, and in particular to improving the health of immigrant Latino populations.

While a certain amount of the class time will be in English, many of the lectures and presentations will be given in Spanish. The Spanish language instruction incorporated into the program will help in improving language skills onsite. However, in clinical and community-based settings students will be interacting in Spanish, and will get the most of the program if they have a comfortable level of Spanish proficiency before coming.

Grading Basis

The Spring course MED 259 and the Summer program in Mexico will be taken for a combined letter grade, to be conferred upon successful completion of the summer program.  Each course will be worth 2 units.

Participation Requirements

Participants must adhere to the BOSP participation requirements set forth in the Bing Overseas Studies Program (“BOSP”) Participation and Assumption of Risk, Release of Claims, Indemnification and Hold Harmless Agreement (“BOSP Agreement”). In addition, participants must adhere to the program ground rules that will be discussed in details during the Spring Quarter. 

All students are required to meet all prerequisites, attend all mandatory orientations and turn in all required materials by the designated deadlines in order to remain eligible to participate in the program. Failure to turn in required materials by the designated deadlines, attend the mandatory orientation session and complete mandatory orientation activities will result in your removal from the program. This will enable us to better prepare students for studying abroad, and will ensure fairness to students on the waitlist who have completed all of these items. All program participants are required to attend the entire program, from the scheduled arrival date/time through the scheduled departure date/time. Late arrival and/or early departure is not permitted under any circumstance.

Passport and Visa

Students are solely responsible for obtaining their passport and visa. Every BOSP participant MUST have a signed passport that is valid for at least 6 months after the scheduled RETURN date from the overseas program. Students who do not have a valid passport must apply for a new or renewed passport immediately. For information on obtaining or renewing a U.S. passport please visit the State Department website.

VisaCentral San Francisco

Visa Central by CIBT offers online Stanford rates, or contact the local office:

  • In person: 555 Montgomery St. Suite 700, San Francisco, CA 94111
  • By phone: (877) 535-0688

Travisa San Francisco

Travisa for Stanford Travel Program offers online Stanford rates, or contact the local office:

  • In person: 220 Montgomery St. Suite 991, San Francisco, CA 94104
  • By phone: (415) 837-0771

Health and Safety

Students on international programs should be aware that attitudes toward medical conditions, disabilities, and psychological conditions vary by culture and under the laws of the host countries. These differences impact the level of treatment and accommodation available abroad. Students should give serious consideration to their health and personal circumstances when accepting a place in a program and should consult with their physicians.

Students must be aware that certain immunizations may be recommended to protect their health in Mexico. Students must review the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website for complete information on health conditions and vaccinations at their specific location. It is strongly recommended that students make an appointment with the on-campus Vaden Health Center Travel Clinic as soon as they are accepted to the program at (650) 498-2336 ext. 1 to discuss any health concerns, pre-departure immunizations, and any personal prescriptions before going abroad. For some programs, an appointment will be mandatory.

Students must review the U.S. State Department’s consular information website for complete information on safe and security in this specific location.

While overseas, students are advised to be alert to their surroundings, and be particularly aware of any health and safety advisories for the areas they will be visiting. As with any foreign travel, emphasis will be placed on staying away from questionable situations, avoiding injury, and preventing infectious disease. Students will be expected to travel in groups, avoid travel at night, and stay with the group unless prior approval is obtained. Additional issues of personal health and safety and precautions will be discussed in detail during the pre-seminar preparation and upon arriving in country.

If you are uncomfortable traveling under the conditions presented on the website, you should not apply to this program.

Program Modification and Cancellation

Stanford reserves the right to make alterations to this published website description or cancel the program before or during its operation for any reason, including natural disasters, emergencies, low enrollment, or unavailability of facilities or personnel or in compliance with the University’s travel policies. The specific dates, facilities and activities are subject to change depending on available resources at the time and other important considerations that may arise for a successful implementation of the program.