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North Bay Doctor Helps Make Medicine More Accessible in Rural Guatemala

WINDSOR (KPIX) -- A North Bay family medicine physician is making health care more accessible for remote areas of northern Guatemala where clinics are hours away.

Dr. Kate Feibusch of Windsor travels to northern Guatemala two to three times a year to improve health care in remote rural villages.

"The roads are in very poor condition, so people can live as much as four hours away from a clinic and eight hours away from a hospital," Dr. Feibusch said.

The single mother of two practices family medicine at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Rosa, but she also founded Peten Health in 2017.

The nonprofit trains community health workers in Guatemala so that they themselves can provide affordable emergency care to neighbors back in their villages.

They treat ailments, from dental and asthma to diabetes and fractures.
"It's a rural farming area, so there's lots of injuries, they sew up lacerations all the time," Dr. Feibusch said.

Peten Health built new a clinic with a quarter million dollars she raised in Bay Area donations. It served 6,000 people last year.

The center also includes dormitories to house both visiting professionals who teach at the clinic and students, who train for three years to become community health workers.

Retired physical therapist Randi Francis volunteered in 2019 to give instruction  in orthopedics for a week.

"It was a phenomenal experience with these very highly motivated students that really want to learn how to help people," Francis said.

Feibusch said so far, Peten Health has trained about 40 community health workers like Miguel Teletor, who's now skilled to improve and save lives.

"Sometimes we never thought we were going to have the ability. But with time, we are becoming more experienced," said Teletor.

Community health worker Estrella Lopez said appreciative patients have told her, "You are an angel."

In the pandemic, with public transportation shutdowns in Guatemala, community health workers have taken on a more significant role: they have been helping to provide food resources and care for those in their villages least able to take care of themselves.

The omicron surge has postponed travel for volunteer teachers.

Some volunteers were scheduled to travel to Guatemala from the Family Medicine Residency Program at Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa, a program for which Feibusch was a founding faculty member.

When it's safe to go, program director Dr. Trish Hiserote says the family medicine residents can't wait to experience the joy of giving through Feibusch's Peten Health nonprofit.

"It's really just a testament to who Kate is. She's so focused on caring for others," Hiserote said.

"It's the most rewarding thing I have done in my life, which is why I keep doing it," smiled Feibusch.

So for empowering neighbors to care for the health of their neighbors in rural northern Guatemalan villages, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Dr. Kate Feibusch.


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