WHAT IS FISH?
Fellowship for International Service and Health (FISH) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization run by UCLA undergraduate students. Since its founding in 2004, FISH has maintained a continued relationship with the community of Maclovio Rojas, Mexico, and established key partnerships with community leaders, local physicians, and other key stakeholders. In recent years, FISH has also undergone major organizational changes to ensure that our services are ethical, culturally sensitive, and sustainable.
Prior to 2015, FISH provided bi-weekly English lessons and clinical services (including BMI, blood pressure, blood glucose, consultations) in the marketplace of Maclovio Rojas. Under the mentorship of Dr. Gitanjali Arora, FISH re-evaluated its clinical services based on current global health ethical standards and temporarily discontinued all marketplace clinic activities.
Some of the fundamental flaws in FISH’s prior service model included: (1) creation of a “healthcare system” dependent on international service providers, (2) limited physician oversight and guidance, (3) lack of integration with Mexican non-profits and community-based organizations, and (4) poor communication with community leaders.
After collaborating with UCLA’s Global Development Lab to comprehensively assess local health needs, we identified diabetes, hypertension, and rickettsia as major community concerns. The needs assessment process also required frequent meetings with local stakeholders, fostering stronger partnerships with Dona Hortensia, Sra. Maria Luisa, and Sr. Enrique. In addition, we formed new connections with local healthcare providers, namely Dr. Patricia Gonzalez (family physician; UCSD, UABC) and Dr. Roman Chavez (professor of microbiology; UABC).
After the major organizational transition in 2015, FISH has significantly improved the caliber of its English lessons. Our new curriculum utilizes ESL textbooks, projector technology, health education modules, and a donated library. We have also introduced an educational computer lab and Pen Pals program. Our clinical service model has also transitioned from unsupervised marketplace clinics to bi-weekly blood pressure screenings and quarterly health fairs. Our BP screenings are conducted using revised, physician-approved protocols, referrals to local clinics for follow-up care, and health education. Our health fairs, planned in conjunction with community leaders, emphasize health education and healthy lifestyle habits. The youth of Maclovio Rojas have particularly benefited from our new programs, and consistently attend our bi-weekly events.
By emphasizing upstream determinants of health and overall well-being, our work closely parallels global health efforts worldwide. Moving forward, FISH will continue to improve its educational and clinical services with a focus on community partnership and empowerment.