Pre-dental students help pay children’s med bills in Bolivia

The University Pre-Dental Club collects funds in order to sponsor sick children.

Kathryn Nelson

A continent away, injured and ill children are receiving the medical treatment they critically need thanks to a handful of University students.

Biology senior Jeni Iburg travels to Bolivia every winter to visit family and volunteer.

Each year, she brings part of her Christmas money to the Mario Ortiz Children’s Hospital in Santa Cruz. Iburg said she saw the need for medical supplies and financial aid for impoverished families, so this past trip she enlisted the help of the University Pre-Dental Club.

where to go

Bash for Bolivia Concert
What: Roster McCabe, Red Daughters featuring Kelly Jo Mitchell and Merima Helic will perform.
When: 7 p.m. today and Saturday
Where: The Whole in Coffman Union

Just three weeks before she left for Bolivia, the club collected about $2,000 for her to bring to the hospital, club President Tim Anderson said.

According to the Pre-Dental Club Web site, the money provided skin graft surgery for a 13-year-old girl, medication for a 6-year-old boy with a brain tumor, as well as his 23 days in intensive care, medication for a burn victim, numerous prescriptions as well as diapers and formula for infants at the hospital.

During her visit, Iburg said she met a couple that was unable to bring their children home from the hospital because of their outstanding medical bills. With the donations from the Pre-Dental Club, she was able to pay for their treatment, as well as the treatment of two other children staying there.

“Money goes a long way,” she said.

Iburg said she asks at the hospital to see where financial aid is most essential before giving it out.

“We go to see who needs the most money or who’s not covered by the public insurance and buy the prescriptions for them,” she said.

Sixty-four percent of the Bolivians lives below the poverty line.

Iburg said the country’s government provides insurance for children up to 5 years of age, but after that they are on their own.

The success of this year’s Bolivian trip prompted the group to coordinate more fundraising events for the project “Bolivia Smile.”

Paul Enberg, a junior biochemistry and genetics student and member of the Pre-Dental Club, helped organize “Bash for Bolivia,” a concert taking place today at Coffman Union, which will include music by Roster McCabe, Red Daughters, featuring Kelly Jo Mitchell, and Merima Helic.

Enberg said he heard about the Bolivian hospital during a Pre-Dental Club presentation and immediately fell in love with the cause.

“My passion in life is to help people the most I can,” he said.

Anderson said the club is also partnering with the American Medical Student Association to broaden its impact abroad. He said he even hopes to send some group members to Bolivia.

Incorporating humanitarian work into their professional careers is also important to some group members.

“I want to take dentistry to the world,” Enberg said.