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Feast of Saint Luke Honors Legacy of Beloved Loyola Professor

Bolivian Clinic Awarded

Taking a year off from medical school to work in a South American clinic isn’t a common practice for most medical students.  

“A lot of medical students hesitate to do a year-long thing, because it’s adding on a year of medical school,” said Andrea Escobar.  

For Escobar, it’s one of the main reasons she chose to attend Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine in the first place. 

“I heard about this program when I was applying to medical schools and I liked that it was a whole year, instead of just a weeklong,” said Escobar. “I felt like maybe I could help with more long-term care.” 

The rural health care clinic in Bolivia is one of the most prominent legacies of Susan Hou, MD, who passed away in July 2019. She co-founded it in 2001, alongside her husband, Mark Molitch, MD, and Bolivian endocrinologist, Douglas Villaroel, MD. Dr. Hou, a nephrologist, went above and beyond, dedicating those years to serving the Bolivian community by organizing transplants and importing medicine, all while continuing her practice and teaching in Maywood. 

“Dr. Hou always put human rights above all other things. She was a giant in a small body,” said Amy Blair, MD, director of the Center for Community and Global Health (CCGH). 

Dr. Hou joined the Stritch School of Medicine faculty in 2000 as aprofessor ofmedicine with a concentration in kidney transplantation. She directed the Loyola Medicine kidney transplant program for 13 years. A champion of living donation, she donated her own kidney to a dialysis patient in 2003.  

She lived the Jesuit mission of social justice in everything she did.


“Dr. Hou always put human rights above all other things. She was a giant in a small body.”

From the remote village of Palacios to the urban landscape of Maywood, Illinois, her memory still lingers in both communities, reflecting the legacy she leaves behind. Eighteen years after its start, Dr. Hou’s biggest undertaking is being recognized with the Jack MacCarthy Service in Medicine Award. 

Jack MacCarthy, MD, was a Norbertine priest and physician who graduated from Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine in 1977. Over the past several decades, Dr. MacCarthy has dedicated his life to service of the poor in the most remote corner of the Peruvian Amazon, eventually building a regional hospital for the villages in the area. Named in his honor, the Service in Medicine Award recognizes an individual who demonstrates the embodiment of medicine as an act of faithful service and whose work in medicine aligns with the Catholic vision, mission, and gospel of service.  

According to Dr. Blair, no one’s work was more deserving of the award, than Dr. Hou.  

“Never did I see her waver from her human rights approach to global health," said Dr. Blair. "She really embodied the social justice mission we talk about so much at Loyola.”

With her passing, the awards committee felt it only made sense to bestow the honor to the clinic she helped establish. At the Feast of Saint of Luke on October 16, 2019, Bolivian clinic fellows, like Escobar, gathered to share their memories of the Centro Médico Humberto Parra clinic and, of course, Dr. Hou. 

“Even though Dr. Hou won’t be there to get the Jack MacCarthy award, hopefully she’ll be there in spirit,” said Escobar, a 2018 Bolivian fellow.  

BIENVENIDOS AL CENTRO MÉDICO HUMBERTO PARRA 

It’s not an easy journey to the Centro Médico Humberto Parra (CHMP). Located in the eastern Bolivian rainforest, down muddy roads, and patchwork bridges, the clinic is the only medical facility available in the surrounding 40,000-person area.  

Every year, more than 3,000 patients travel to CHMP for clinic visits, surgical campaigns, anti-parasite programs, and emergency care resources. The clinic has three exam rooms, a treatment room, dental suite, an ophthalmology suite, a laboratory, a small pharmacy, a classroom, and a small children’s library. 

For over a decade, Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine has partnered with the Centro Médico Humberto Parra, sending faculty and resident volunteers to care for clinical patients, as well as students who can learn and assist in the coordination. 

However, eight years ago, these short-term volunteer trips evolved into a year-long Fellowship program for students.

“Students sought a longer-term experience because they valued sustainability and wanted to provide a true benefit,” said Dr. Blair. “We created the Fellowship to provide that opportunity. Since then, each year, students have helped start or build projects for the clinic and the community; whether  assisting with surgical campaigns, giving intestinal anti-parasite medication to kids, or providing diabetes medication and education. A few years ago, the student Fellow was able to get an ultrasound machine. They’ve left their mark on the clinic and the clinic has left its mark on the students.”


They’ve left their mark on the clinic and the clinic has left its mark on the students.” 

Unlike other medical study abroad programs, the Bolivian clinic expects students to not only shadow doctors and treat patients, but also learn the ins and outs of its operations.

“They learn the costs and management of resources, including making tough decisions on managing finite resources, which I think is extremely important in today’s health care system and economy,” said Dr. Blair.

For Bolivian fellow Escobar, experiencing the administration side of health care reinforces her career path in medicine.  

“I want to be involved in primary care and hospitalist medicine with both adults and children. Being in Bolivia helped solidify that for me,” said Escobar. 

REMEMBERING SUSAN HOU, MD 

"Dr. Hou was just incredible. She's done such altruistic work, but never talked about it. She was so humble,” said Megha Srivastava, a 2018 Bolivian fellow. 

A magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University, Dr. Hou pursued East Asian studies at Stanford University and medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She trained as a nephrologist at Tufts-New England Medical Center and became a world-renowned expert in kidney disease and pregnancy.  

Along with co-founding the Centro Médico Humberto Parra clinic, Dr. Hou was also instrumental in organizing the first liver transplant in Bolivia and establishing the Daniels Hamant Foundation to provide patients with unaffordable medications. 

“Everyone should have equal access, and everyone should have access to not just basics, but the ultimate medical care, anywhere in the world. She never wavered from that conviction,” Dr. Blair said about Dr. Hou’s commitment to humanitarian health. 

As a practicing physician running an international free clinic, Dr. Hou’s legacy continues to motivate Stritch students, who have a similar passion for global health. 

"Seeing all the work they’ve done and how they were able to start this clinic, keep it going, and constantly working to make it better is something that really inspired me,” said Srivastava. 


“Through the fellowship, I learned that I want to expand my understanding of public health and the administrative aspects of how to start a clinic and how to practice medicine in different situations.”

The sustainability of the clinic is also a unique feature of the program. Instead of a program staffed and coordinated solely by Loyola, Centro Médico Humberto Parra is embedded into the community of Palacios, and employs physicians, fellows, and students from other universities.  

“It felt like I could leave and pass the torch, that the program is always in good hands. It runs on its own, it’s not dependent on volunteers or short-term help coming in,” Srivastava said.  

Its vision has also inspired fellows like Srivastava and Escobar to develop a different vision of global health. One that they plan to pursue as they move into their residencies. 

“Through the fellowship, I learned that I want to expand my understanding of public health and the administrative aspects of how to start a clinic and how to practice medicine in different situations, whether that be in the states or abroad while being aware of resources,” said Srivastava, who’s also volunteered in global health programs in India and Guatemala.  

Beyond the medicine, both fellows say the most powerful part of their year in Bolivia was experiencing the community brought together by the clinic. 

“The Molitch family spread this culture of love and humility here and in Bolivia, it just permeated the whole program and touched so many hearts,” said Srivastava. 

“My first week there, I just felt so welcome in the clinic,” added Escobar. “I wasn’t even homesick; I already felt like I was part of the community and the clinic."


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  Following Dr. Hou’s passing, Loyola plans to keep her work alive, through its partnership with the Centro Médico Humberto Parra, Ignatian Service Immersion trips, and its Bolivian Fellowship. Learn more about the Bolivian Fellowship and how to apply.  Let's Get Started