Dr. Cynthia Lucero Latino Mental Health Program’s Immersion Experience at UEES in Guayaquil

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By: 

Mari Carmen Bennasar, Psy.D.
Director,  Lucero Latino Mental Health Program (LMHP)

Daisy Rivera, Psy.D.
Faculty, Lucero Latino Mental Health Program (LMHP)

The Dr. Cynthia Lucero Latino Mental Health program (LMHP) at William James College (WJC) in Boston, Massachusetts, United States, is a specialty program available to all students at the college. The program was named for Dr. Cynthia Lucero, a WJC alumna from Guayaquil, Ecuador who died in 2002 at the age of 28 after collapsing during the Boston Marathon, shortly after completing her doctoral degree in clinical psychology. She was a community oriented young woman with a passion and commitment for serving underserved populations, especially of Latino background.  She stressed the importance of culturally and linguistically appropriate care. 

The Lucero LMHP follows this mission and since 2008 has been sending students to Guayaquil for a month-long immersion experience.  This year, we are proud to partner with UEES to provide students with professional and personal experiences to enhance their understanding of Latin communities.

On July 13th, 11 very excited students (from Organizational Psychology, and Clinical Psychology and Clinical Mental Health Counseling Programs) arrived in Guayaquil accompanied by me, Dr. Mari Carmen Bennasar, the director of LMHP and Dr. Daisy Rivera, faculty of LMHP and alumna of WJC.

Although we had countless Zoom meetings in preparation for this immersion experience, it wasn’t until we had the opportunity to meet and network in person, that our understanding of each other’s programs and the myriad of collaboration opportunities became truly clear. After several meetings with the UEES psychology department, the personal and professional investment in the Lucero LMHP sparked and quickly deepened.  It was heartwarming to see UEES share our passion and commitment to train our students. 

During their stay, students engaged in many activities such as clinical observations and interventions (Instituto de Neurociencias), school visits (Young Living & Thomas More), general and clinical language support classes, socio-cultural experiences (i.e., eco-lodge in Manabi, visit to small local communities), and home stays with local families.  

WJC Students left with new and warm friendships as well as a deeper understanding of the Ecuadorian culture, of Spanish and its clinical nuances, of the mental health system in Ecuador, and about themselves.  They learned about the importance of gender roles, religion and spirituality, family, politics, and systems.   We all learned about the importance of nurturance through food and the spectacular Ecuadorian cuisine!   We appreciate how this experience has encouraged us to become better agents of change, to appreciate the power of collaboration and teamwork, and the power of love and care.

We are deeply grateful for all the people who facilitated and worked hard in making this a wonderful experience.  GRACIAS to Canciller Carlos Ortega, Mr. Marcos Espinel, and Mr. Johnny Gonzalez.  GRACIAS to the UEES International team including student leaders, the staff at the INC, Thomas More, and Young Living.  Gracias to our cultural guides and host families.  We are eternally grateful to the Lucero Family for starting this journey so many years ago.  

Hasta pronto UEES and Guayaquil!

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La Universidad Espíritu Santo (UEES), inicia sus actividades académicas en el año 1994 como institución privada, autofinanciada y sin fines de lucro. Su espíritu de compromiso y constante innovación están presentes en la calidad del servicio que ofrece a su comunidad.

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