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A group of public health students from COCC and Oregon State University-Cascades are journeying to the Dominican Republic this June for a weeklong education program, with visits to community health clinics and a health development service learning project on their itinerary.

"We're interested to discover how public health, community development and primary health care  work together to serve those most in need," said Karen Heckert, Ph.D., assistant professor of Public Health at COCC, the group's faculty leader. This is a new educational offering for both COCC and OSU-Cascades. COCC is coordinating the trip through Education First, a world leader in international education, with U.S. headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Students at COCC will earn educational credit by enrolling in a new global health course and gain cross-cultural experience. 

The group will visit a number of sites in this resource-limited Caribbean island nation, from small clinics to a large health center in the capital city of Santo Domingo, learning from local health professionals, including nutrition and environmental health experts. A community service project in the agricultural region of Rancho Arriba will provide students with a hands-on, immersive experience. "Depending on what the community chooses, we could work on HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis prevention, or prenatal care, children's health, community gardening, or even an environmental health project," explained Heckert.

COCC offers a Public Health Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer degree, designed for maximum transferability, to any undergraduate degree program in public health, including OSU's Bachelor of Science in Public Health and OHSU-PSU's School of Public Health, as well as other community health and health studies degree programs.

The group has established a GoFundMe site for donations to help offset their travel costs. Donors can also make tax-deductible contributions to the COCC Foundation in the name of Public Health Service Learning in the Dominican Republic.

Heckert is a credentialed public health professional with more than 20 years of global health experience in regions of Southeast Asia, Africa and the Pacific. For more information, contact Heckert at 541-318-3791 or


Dominican Republic Child