MSU Denver and Vicente Fox form health care-focused partnership - RED - Relevant. Essential. Denver.

MSU Denver and Vicente Fox form health care-focused partnership

The former president of Mexico and his wife, Marta Sahagún, visited campus to discuss the collaboration connecting Denver and San Miguel de Allende.

June 13, 2019

By Cory Phare

Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Health Institute is expanding the classroom to a clinic in Mexico founded by former Mexican President Vicente Fox and his wife, Marta Sahagún.

MSU Denver students will work and study at CRISMA Clinic in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, starting in January. The facility provides rehabilitation and therapy for underserved adults and children and is supported in part by Vamos México, a nonprofit organization founded and run by Sahagún.

The partnership was announced Thursday at MSU Denver during a forum featuring Fox, Sahagún and University President Janine Davidson, Ph.D.

“Education is the only way you can change a nation in one generation,” Fox said. “When it comes to technology and capacity, (the United States) has the very best in the world … while Mexico has a comprehensive health-care system with 100% coverage. We’re friends and partners who can learn from one another. We should keep that going and growing.”

A conversation with Vicente Fox and Marta Sahagún from MSU Denver on Vimeo.

MSU Denver’s Health Institute is a collaboration of 10 academic departments that serve students entering health-related fields: Health ProfessionsNursingHuman Performance and SportNutritionHuman ServicesSocial WorkBiologyChemistryPsychology; and Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences.

Its first study-abroad cohort will serve side-by-side with the clinic’s physical therapists, speech therapists and psychologists, said course leader Karina Benabe, clinical field faculty with the University’s Department of Social Work. Students will get a firsthand look at the Mexican health-care system through a culturally responsive lens.

“The main things we’ll focus on are the interdisciplinary nature of health-care services, exploration of best practices, benefits and challenges,” Benabe said. “Another aspect of the experience will be learning through engagement about the history and culture of the region we’re visiting.”

Additionally, MSU Denver graduate students in social work and nutrition will collaborate with Mexican partners on prenatal-public-health efforts to correspond with a new, larger clinic opening this fall, said Jenn Capps, dean of MSU Denver’s College of Professional Studies.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for impact in preventative care. For example, integrating folic acid for expecting mothers,” she said. “We’ll have our master’s students working with their experts to help women get the prenatal care they need in the best, most culturally responsive way.”

Marta Sahagún, former First Lady of Mexico, speaks with MSU Denver students on June 13, 2019. Sahagún and her husband, former Mexican President Vicente Fox, were on campus to discuss a new health care-related partnership with the University. Photo by John Arnold.
Marta Sahagún, former First Lady of Mexico, speaks with MSU Denver students on June 13, 2019. Sahagún and her husband, former Mexican President Vicente Fox, were on campus to discuss a new health care-related partnership with the University. Photo by John Arnold.

The University’s recent Hispanic-Serving Institution designation, the reputation of its health program and continuing success forming public-private partnerships contribute to the positive working relationship Davidson fostered with the dignitaries for establishing the collaboration, Capps said.

Integrative-health-care student Kyle Johnson plans to take part in the study-abroad opportunity, building on his previous public experience with a University service-learning study-abroad project in Bhopal, India, where students spent 10 days working at the Sambhavna Clinic.

“Working with people to explore the social determinants of health, this seems like a great partnership,” he said. “The biggest takeaway is that people just need someone to believe in them and reassure that they deserve access to wellness care – and help them make the connections.”

Fox on Thursday also discussed themes of leadership during the forum, a topic that built on his August 2017 visit to the University, highlighting the work of the couple’s other nonprofit, Centro Fox, which provides social programs to children in fields such as music and diplomacy. 

“Most of us think of leaders as someone else, but we’re all leaders, all the time, in any activity we participate in,” Fox said. “The difference is in education. … I had the opportunity to go to university and equip myself with the knowledge to succeed. Now, the challenge and obligation is to extend those opportunities for education to those who don’t currently have them. That will solve most the the problems of humankind, I believe.”

Fox served as the 55thpresident of Mexico from December 2000 to November 2006. He and Sahagún, a politician who served as press secretary in the first year of his administration, married in July 2001. Sahagún founded Vamos México later that year while first lady. After Fox left office, the couple worked together to expand the nonprofit’s efforts into the fields of education, addiction recovery and health care.

The collaboration is a win-win for the University and the CRISMA Clinic – and even both countries, Sahagún said.

“It’s good for students to come to Mexico to understand our culture, our soul, how Mexican people are good and talented and committed,” Sahagún said. “Sharing our compassion is important because the compassionate leader is the best, and to do that is to make the necessity of others our own, to make the suffering of others our own.”

The upcoming study-abroad trip is open to all students. For more information, contact Karina Benabe or Marcia Walsh-Aziz, co-leader and faculty in the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences.


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