Grad Students Help Save Lives in Peru

Cervical cancer is the leading cause of death of women in Peru, where only 30 percent of women get Pap smear screenings.

CerviCusco, a non-profit Peruvian agency, is committed to increasing that percentage. Barbara Klitz ‘76, clinical professor and director of the Cyto-pathology Program offered at URI’s Feinstein Providence Campus, volunteered at the clinic during the summer of 2010.

That experience inspired Klitz to create the first summer abroad course, Special Problems in Clinical Lab Science.

Last August, graduate students Robert Mathis ’10 of Pawtucket, Ashlee Taylor ’10 of North Kingtown, Carolyn Thompson ’05 of Hopkinton, Daniel Attoh of Pawtucket, and Stephanie Ruszcyk of Danville, N. H., screened more than 400 pap smears and found a number of atypical smears. Even though it wasn’t part of their six-credit course, which completed their degree, the students happily volunteered to screen an extra day to help with the clinic’s workload.

Sandy Quaglieri ’73 of North Kingstown, who has 30 years experience as a cytotechnologist, served as clinical instructor. To prepare for the trip, she studied Spanish for a year.

In addition to the screenings, the class gained an historical perspective by reading Kim MacQuarrie’s book, The Last Days of the Incas. “Some of those stories were fresh in our minds,” says Quaglieri. “We were amazed at the gentleness of the Peruvian people.”