Global Health in Mexico (Oaxaca)

Program overview

The southern state of Oaxaca is the most ethnically and linguistically diverse state in Mexico. It is home to a vibrant craft and art scene, outstandingly colorful festivities amongst beautiful architecture and unique cuisine. Despite its cultural riches, Oaxaca ranks among the country’s most impoverished states, lags in its health and economic indicators, and faces a complex social environment. 

Through this program, join local healthcare professionals and learn firsthand about primary care, hospital care, and preventive medicine. Rotate at community level clinics and hospitals serving low income populations. Observe Mexico’s three-tiered insurance system, its approach to the rapidly rising burden of non-communicable diseases, and various efforts to address health inequities. This program will provide participants with unique insight and cultural competency when serving the growing Mexican immigrant population in the US and abroad.

Become immersed in Oaxacan culture and language through Spanish lessons and living with a local family. In the city of Oaxaca, shop for local crafts and artisanry, explore museums and art galleries, or hang out with locals in the vibrant Zócalo or main plaza. CFHI participants may also organize weekend trips to nearby destinations, such as the Zapotec ruins of Monte Albán. 

General information
Global Health Nursing Hospital & Inpatient Medicine Primary health care Public Health Traditional & Indigenous Medicine
Advanced Spanish Beginner Spanish Intermediate Spanish
Fees and Duration
2 Weeks - $1975 4 Weeks - $3100 5 Weeks - $3775 6 Weeks - $4425 7 Weeks - $5110 8 Weeks - $5795 9 Weeks - $6480 10 Weeks - $7140
Start Dates
June 1st, 2024 July 6th, 2024 August 3rd, 2024 September 7th, 2024 October 5th, 2024 November 2nd, 2024 January 4th, 2025 February 1st, 2025 March 1st, 2025

About this program


The state of Oaxaca is best known for its indigenous peoples and cultures. There are sixteen officially recognized indigenous groups in Oaxaca, the most populous being the Zapotec or Mixtec. These groups have survived better than most others in Mexico due to the state’s rugged and isolating terrain. It is estimated that at least a third of the population speaks indigenous languages, and 50% do not speak Spanish.

The capital city, Oaxaca de Juarez or Oaxaca City, is located in a beautiful valley surrounded by the Sierra Mountains, approximately 500 km south of Mexico City. At the center of the city is Santo Domingo Plaza, with a magnificent church and convent dating back to the 16th century. The city’s cobblestone streets and architecture date to Spanish colonial times and are bustling with creative artisans and street vendors.

Program participants will find their home away from home in carefully selected homestays, screened by CFHI Local Coordinators in Oaxaca and following CFHI’s health and safety guidelines. Nestled within the historic center of Oaxaca city, these homestays offer the perfect blend of comfort and authenticity, situated in middle-class neighborhoods with excellent access to public transportation, shops, restaurants, and cafes. In some cases, CFHI scholars share a house or a room in the same homestay with fellow program participants.

Going beyond mere lodging, these homestays provide a unique opportunity to learn about the local culture and practice Spanish skills on a daily basis in an informal setting. Accommodations include two meals per day. At the welcome orientation, participants will be instructed on culture and work etiquette to have the best experience in both homestay and the health setting.

Participants should arrive in Oaxaca City, Mexico on the program start date and will be picked up from the airport by a CFHI representative and taken to their homestay. A welcome orientation will take place the Sunday or Monday after arrival.

Visas are not required for U.S. citizens staying less than 3 months in Mexico. More information on travel and logistics will be provided by CFHI after acceptance into the program.

What’s Included

CFHI Program fees include the majority of your on the ground costs. As a nonprofit, CFHI strives to keep fees low and offers fundraising opportunities, scholarships and discounts.

Pre-Departure Support

  • Program advising and support via email, phone, and web meeting from CFHI’s Central Leadership team
  • Detailed online Pre-Departure Training that includes modules on program logistics (flights, visas, immunizations, and more), intercultural learning, introduction to health realities at your program site, and much more

On-Site Services

  • Airport pick-up upon arrival and transportation with a local CFHI representative to your program lodging
  • Welcome orientation 1-2 days after arrival covering safety, transportation, and other logistics
  • Spanish Classes: 30 hours/month of Spanish classes, including medical Spanish instruction and cultural activities
  • CFHI Local Team that provides instruction, logistical support, and 24/7 emergency response
  • Meetings and lectures on local healthcare system, socio-economic determinants of health and current cultural/historical topics. 
  • Placement and coordination of clinical and any public health activities (if relevant)
  • Accommodation and two meals per day
  • Local cell phone or support obtaining a local SIM card
  • International emergency medical and evacuation insurance (unless waived by your university or institution)

Post-Return Resources

  • Opportunities to engage as a CFHI Alumni Ambassador, reviewing scholarship applications, speaking on CFHI panels, and more
  • Access to CFHI alumni-only social media group/s featuring news and career opportunities related to Global Health
  • CFHI alumni newsletter highlighting events, professional development opportunities, resources, and ways to stay involved


Uniquely, 60% or more of CFHI student program fees go directly to the communities they will be visiting, benefiting the local economy at large.


CFHI participants have free time during most evenings and weekends and may choose to organize trips to nearby destinations and take part in cultural activities offered within Oaxaca itself. In the city, enjoy colorful street markets and a lively nightlife. Sample local foods unique to the region like Oaxacan cheese, mole, a sauce made with chocolate and chiles, and chapulines or fried crickets. Approximately 6 miles outside of the city is Monte Albán, a pre-Columbian World Heritage Site dating back to 500 BC. Take a tour of local villages, each specializing in a traditional folk art including weaving, black clay ceramics, and alabrijes, or brightly colored wooden sculptures.

In Oaxaca, the celebrations are said to be some of the most vibrant in all of Mexico. It is home to the month-long cultural festival Guelaguetza, taking place in July and featuring indigenous music, food, art, and costumes.


A typical day in a CFHI program is a blend of immersive learning, cultural exploration, and personal reflection. Participants begin their mornings with breakfast at their homestay, followed by 4-6 hours of clinical rotations. The clinical site assignments and schedule are shared by the local team upon arrival. In the afternoon, participants attend Spanish classes at the language school, with the hours and regularity varying based on the program. Weekends are free of program-planned activities.

Kendrick Tran

Hi! My name is Kendrick Tran; I’m currently working as a registered nurse in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) at the University of Michigan. My hobbies are weightlifting, video gaming, and trying all different manners of food!





Clinical Rotations & Public Health Placements


Clinical rotations in Oaxaca will provide students an opportunity to learn about rural and community health in this region. Students may participate in clinical rotations at primary and secondary level clinics, and a government hospital in Oaxaca.

The following hospitals, clinics, and public health sites are a sample of possible rotations during this program. After acceptance, students can indicate any preferences on their application. The local team does their best to accommodate learners’ preferences, based on local availability and conditions.


Primary Healthcare Centers

Located in every neighborhood, these clinics provide services including health education and promotion, diagnosis and treatment of disease, prenatal care and family planning, and primary care services including vaccinations and well-child checkups. Learn from physicians and nurses educating the local population about chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes, and infectious diseases including dengue, malaria and tuberculosis. These facilities also offer vaccinations, pap smears, and cancer screenings. Rotate with specialists in infectious diseases, nephrology, gastroenterology, neonatology, and more, and observe nurses and residents as they care for seriously ill children.


General Government Hospital

This teaching hospital, located in the northern part of the city, receives funding from the government and civil organizations in Oaxaca. It provides primary, secondary and tertiary care at low cost. Rotate alongside Mexican medical students and learn from residents and physicians in ob/gyn, pediatrics, surgery and emergency wards. Shadow local healthcare professionals as they conduct morning rounds, general consults and follow-up treatment.


Nonprofit Rehabilitation Center

This state-of-the-art facility receives most of its funding from a national telethon campaign televised annually. It provides genetic counseling for families, as well as physical and speech therapy. It also provides services and equipment for children with disabilities from across the state of Oaxaca. Learn from orthopedic specialists, general practitioners and rehabilitation experts as they engage in patient consultations and rounds. Since its opening in 1997, this facility has provided care for over 4,000 children.


Meet the Local Team

Dr. Magaly Chavez
Dr. Magaly Chavez
CFHI Oaxaca Medical Director

Dr. Magaly Chavez - CFHI Oaxaca Medical Director

The local Medical Director oversees and arranges all clinical and public health-related activities and is also responsible for coordinating healthcare and emergency services for participants as needed. They coordinate a cadre of preceptors who mentor and supervise program participants at both clinical and public/community health sites. Dr. Chavez is the expert on socioeconomic determinants of health in the region and healthcare delivery strategies in low-resource settings.

Dr. Chavez is a general practitioner and works in the Emergency Room of a local hospital. She has worked with CFHI since 2011 and enjoys teaching students about the healthcare system in Oaxaca. She has grown personally and professionally from her interactions with CFHI participants, and likes being a part of their training as future healthcare workers. In her free time she enjoys reading, dancing and listening to music and has completed several triathlons. 

Martha Canseco
Martha Canseco
CFHI Oaxaca Local Coordinator

Martha Canseco - CFHI Oaxaca Local Coordinator

The CFHI Local Coordinators manage the logistics of housing, transportation, and cultural immersion throughout the program. They are a valuable resource for any questions related to navigating the program locale, cultural norms, and tips on planning weekend travel.

Martha has been working with CFHI since 2004 and is the co-director of a language school in Oaxaca. She has extensive experience running cultural immersion programs for foreign students. Martha is a Dental Surgeon with her own clinic and a certified Spanish instructor. She completed her training at Benito Juárez University in Oaxaca and the Autonomous University of Mexico. She loves all music; especially dance music from the 80s.

Sandra Rivera
Sandra Rivera
CFHI Oaxaca Local Coordinator

Sandra Rivera - CFHI Oaxaca Local Coordinator

The CFHI Local Coordinators manage the logistics of housing, transportation, and cultural immersion throughout the program. They are a valuable resource for any questions related to navigating the program locale, cultural norms, and tips on planning weekend travel.

Sandra has been working with CFHI since 2004 and is the co-director of a language school in Oaxaca. She has extensive experience running cultural immersion programs for foreign students. Sandra has a diploma in Teaching Spanish as a second language from the Autonomous University of Mexico. In her free time she enjoys cooking desserts, going to the movies and spending time with her family.

This Program Requires Beginner Spanish 1 or Higher
Leading this program are our CFHI on-site Global Team members, all of whom speak Spanish, and some English. Translators are not provided during this program. You will take Spanish language classes throughout your program, and all daily interactions will be in Spanish. CFHI’s local team will support and help you through your experience. This program requires beginner 1 Spanish or higher.


This CFHI program is ideal for participants who are 19 years of age or older with a Beginner 1 Spanish level or above, who have an interest in fields related to traditional & indigenous medicine, hospital & inpatient medicine, primary health care, global health nursing, and/or public health. You do not need to be a student to be eligible for this program; mid-career professionals, GAP year learners, and others are also welcome. This program will provide an in-depth overview of traditional & indigenous medicine, hospital & inpatient medicine, primary health care, global health nursing, and/or public health in Latin America through visits and experiences within hospitals and clinics in the city of Oaxaca. To confirm your eligibility, please read CFHI’s general eligibility requirements.

The Sustainable Development Goals are a global roadmap set forth by the United Nations General Assembly to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure the well-being of all individuals by the year 2030. This program highlights the following SDGs:

Images Images Images

What alumni say about this program

Ellen L.
Ellen L. Masters of Social Work Student, University of Texas at Austin

“This experience opened my eyes to the universality of health disparities and grew my compassion and interest in global inequality. I learned so much, my heart was opened and Oaxaca is beautiful. I hope I get to return soon!”

Camille I.
Camille I. Medical Student, University of South Florida Medical School

“I went to Oaxaca, Mexico with CFHI for a month. This was my first time practicing medicine abroad and I appreciate how careful they were about making sure that I only did what I was qualified to do unlike other programs which sometimes let premeds do things way above their level. They were always available which made me feel safe at any point I was in Mexico. My home stay, clinics and hospitals I visited, and Spanish school were all set up and ready to go upon my arrival. I rotated through peds, surgery, internal med, L&D, ED… My medical director was extremely receptive of what I wanted out of my experience. I got way more out of this experience than I could have possibly imagined. I previously shied away from short missions trips because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to fully immerse myself in the culture and really get something out of it while giving back. This trip with CFHI was perfect because my role often fell at the same level as it would be in the US which made it easier to feel immersed into the environment. The only down side is that it was quite expensive, but CFHI did help cover half my funds with a scholarship which was easy to apply for.”

Beatriz H.
Beatriz H.

“This trip to Oaxaca was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had in my life. I was able to absorb a culture closely linked to its past almost each day by hearing indigenous languages at the market, eating food that is native to the state, and exploring the ancient ruins of the Zapotecos. The day times were filled with our internship in various hospitals or clinics that truly helped us compare the differences in health care, which positively…” Read More on Beatriz’s blog.

How to Apply

Create profile

Submit application

Hear back from CFHI team

Complete pre-departure training and requirements


Let The World Change You


Enquire now

If you want to get a free consultation without any obligations, fill in the form below and we'll get in touch with you.