Campus News

Shoulder to Shoulder Global celebrates 15 years of making a difference

Students from UK's Shoulder to Shoulder Global in Ecuador this past summer.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 14, 2022) — In 2002, six University of Kentucky medical residents traveled to Ecuador for a medical brigade with their professor, Tom Young, M.D. Upon their return, the small group shared their experiences with their peers. A few years later, that group of six had turned into 30, and Shoulder to Shoulder Global was born.

Shoulder to Shoulder Global (STSG) is a University of Kentucky Global Health Initiatives organization housed in the UK International Center that gives students, faculty, staff and community members the opportunities to help improve the health and well-being of an underserved community in Santo Domingo, Ecuador, while educating Kentucky’s health care practitioners in an interprofessional, international service-learning setting.

Through a partnership with the Hombro a Hombro Foundation, STSG opened the Centro de Salud Hombro a Hombro, a primary care clinic that serves the community year-round. During its 15 years of operation, the clinic has provided more than 100,000 medical consultations and 25,000 dental consultations. The STSG program participants alone have seen approximately 23,000 patients.

"It is so exciting to celebrate 15 years of delivering comprehensive health services in this community in Ecuador,” Young said. “STSG and our Ecuadorian partners have provided thousands of patients with services and hundreds of UK students, staff and faculty have benefited from the learning opportunities we’ve offered. We plan to continue to dream big.”

UK College of Public Health student Katie Wittman attended a brigade, or short-term experience in global health (STEGH), for the STSG program in June after learning about it from a Canvas announcement. As a public health student, Wittman benefited from the clinical experiences, like scribing for physicians and taking vitals with nurses.

“Because I was able to work with and observe so many professionals, I was also able to grasp the importance of working together and how it influences the health outcomes of an individual and even a population,” Wittman said.

Ketrell McWhorter, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health and director of the Graduate Certificate in Global Health at the UK College of Public Health, recently went on the June STEGH to oversee the “charlas,” or lessons. She helps her students to understand the importance of field experiences.

“Any interaction that our students, particularly at the undergraduate level, can have with a low-income community to serve and see the direct effect their service can have on some of the most grateful recipients yields such a great return, not only personally, but also professionally,” McWhorter said. “Public health is about using empathy to care for the community.”

To learn more about Shoulder to Shoulder Global and how you might participate in one of the 2023 STSG STEGH experiences in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, Ecuador, visit

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