Bridging Healthcare and Culture in the Brazilian Amazon: A Perspective on the MPIE Program

by Melissa Nix

Alex and Andi Weaver share their reflections on Amizade’s Multilateral Partnership for Interprofessional Education (MPIE) program, a collaboration with West Virginia University that offers graduate students in various health programs the opportunity to serve and learn in Brazil. After a multi-year hiatus due to Covid-19, the Amizade Brazil team was thrilled to welcome the Weavers and welcome back the MPIE program! 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
We are Alex and Andi Weaver and we are from Charleston, West Virginia. We attended West Virginia University for pharmacy school and are graduating with our PharmD/MBA. Some of our hobbies include traveling, working out, and hanging out with our friends.

What made you decide to participate in the MPIE program?
We wanted to take every opportunity possible for our last year of pharmacy school. Since we love to travel and try new things, we decided to apply for the MPIE program. Honesty, since COVID no one has gone out of the country for rotations or study abroad, so we did not know much about the program before going.

Can you provide a summary of the types of activities that you did throughout the program?
Throughout this program we really dove into the culture and the health system. Some cultural things we did were learning carimbó (a dance popular in Santarèm), going to the zoo, visiting the beaches, eating lots of Brazilian cuisine (which is delicious), and living with a wonderful Brazilian family. Some health system activities we did were visiting the pharmacy schools, the clinics, the regional hospital, and the municipal hospital. One of the most life-changing activities we did was Abarè. Abarè is a hospital boat that traveled to different communities along the Tapajòs River to provide health care. On the boat there is a pharmacy, doctors’ offices, and a lab. The employees on the boat would also enter the communities and provide vaccines. We spent a week on Abaré where we would go to 2 communities a day and spend 4 hours providing healthcare at each.

How did the experience impact you?
This was the best experience of our lives and something we will never forget. It opened our eyes of how different healthcare systems can be throughout the world. Not only did the medicine impact us, but the friends and family we made will forever hold a special place in our hearts. We got the opportunity to live with an amazing family and be around our “preceptors” every single day and we are happy to call them our friends and family.

What did you learn that changed your perspectives as pharmacy professionals?
We learned the differences in drug availability, as well as the importance culture plays in medicine and it really depends on where you are in the world. For example, natural medicine is a huge part of the Brazilian culture, especially in Santarèm because they have all the plants from the Amazon to provide them with natural medicine.

Do you think your peers should have a similar experience? Why? YES! This showed us the importance of diversity in your education. We think with all countries and places we only really learn about the region we are living in and we believe that is a limiting factor in healthcare.

Feel free to share anything else not covered by these questions!
One of the biggest culture shocks we experienced was the language barrier. It was amazing to get the opportunity to try to speak Portuguese, but communicating with patients and our family was difficult at times. On the other hand, we kind of got the opportunity to help some pharmacy students and our “Brazilian brother” with their English, which was really fun!

Brazil is a beautiful place and this truly was an experience of a lifetime and something we will cherish for the rest of our lives.


Thanks Alex and Andi for sharing this story with us!