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Doctor follows in Ann Manganaro SL’s footsteps, serves in Central America

Posted on June 24, 2024, by Loretto Community

By Lauri Pramuk, M.D.

A doctor smiling and providing medical care to a happy baby held by another woman.
Ann Manganaro SL, M.D., in El Salvador, where she arrived in 1988 to provide medical care and training during the civil war. Her life and example motivated Lauri Pramuk, M.D, right, to become a physician and serve an Indigenous Guatemalan population. Photo: Mev Puleo
A pediatrician reaches over a student to show him how to examine an eardrum of a patient.
Pediatrician Lauri Pramuk, inspired by Ann Manganaro SL, helped open a clinic in Guatemala. Here she shows student Ricky Perez how to examine a tympanic membrane (eardrum). Ricky, who plans to attend medical school, continues his involvement with the clinic’s work. Photo: Edgar Mateo

Inspired by the story of Ann Manganaro SL and her commitment as a pediatrician to the people of El Salvador, in 2020 I helped open a primary care clinic for a community of Indigenous Mayans near Cobán, Guatemala. The clinic is located at Ciudad de la Esperanza (City of Hope), which also houses a school and community center educating 450 children from preschool through high school.

The story of how I came to this medical work in Guatemala began with Ann. While living at a Catholic Worker-inspired home in Denver, Romero House, I heard Father John Kavanaugh talk about Ann’s work in El Salvador, and I was mesmerized. Her story was calling me. I had to do something with my life like she had done with hers.

I see Ann as a sister poet and pediatrician who tried to ease the suffering of a community the world had cast aside. Her intense drive to teach and to accompany is beautiful and inspiring to me.

Dr. Lauri Pramuk

Ann, already a Sister of Loretto, went to medical school while living at Karen House, a Catholic Worker House in St. Louis of which she was a founding member. After finishing her medical training in January 1988, she went to work in El Salvador in the midst of a brutal civil war. She established a medical clinic in Guarjila, then a newly-settled village for refugees returning from exile in Honduras where all had lost family members in the war. This community of traumatized refugees found a remarkable healer in Ann. The clinic she began, today called the Ann Manganaro Clinic, still thrives, carrying forward her legacy.

Having worked in Guatemala for 12 years, inspired by Ann’s example, I have learned that the primary goal of programs like this is to build the capacity of the local community to be able to take care of themselves. Last year, I established the Ann Manganaro Institute for Guatemalan Accompaniment (AMIGA) in partnership with Regis University to build long-term capacity at Ciudad de la Esperanza. The university had established a partnership with the Cuidad community in 2019. Along with a dedicated group of all-volunteer professional healthcare workers, I spend each year preparing a dozen undergraduate students to travel to Cobán to help staff the clinic for a week. Additionally, we fundraise to provide a year’s worth of pharmaceutical and medical supplies for the community, and to support the salary of a Guatemalan physician who serves the clinic part-time year-round. This year, AMIGA is holding an additional fundraising drive in partnership with Project CURE to send a 40-foot cargo pod of much-needed laboratory and physical therapy/rehabilitation equipment.

A pre-med student in blue scrubs smiles while sharing a hug with a small child in a pink flowered t-shirt.
Bella DeLeon, a pre-med student, shares a hug with a child. Photo by Luis Aguilar

Ciudad de la Esperanza was founded in 2003 by Guatemalan diocesan priest Father Sergio Godoy, and is located adjacent to a sprawling landfill where Indigenous Guatemalans make a living recycling trash and other found materials. In addition to the clinic, school and community center, Ciudad includes a job training center and provides free psychological and legal support for families. With Regis’s assistance, the primary care clinic at Ciudad de la Esperanza is now open year-round to cover the healthcare needs of children and their families. Since 2020, the clinic has added a dental room and pharmacy, and the construction of a lab and physical therapy rehabilitation room is in progress. The medical clinic at Ciudad has been an important partner with the local ministry of health in closing healthcare gaps for the most needy in the area.

The undergraduate students who have participated in this project are inspired to continue to work with marginalized communities. The progress they have seen the clinic make in just a few years is inspirational.

A woman in scrubs fills out a form while talking to another woman holding a newborn baby.
Serving at the clinic has changed students’ lives; many have continued to serve in Guatemala post graduation. Monserrat Pineda Lagunas, left, takes a birth history. Now a nurse at Children’s Hospital of Colorado, she continues to serve in Guatemala each year as the medical trip coordinator.
Photo: Edgar Mateo
Three people within a larger circle are connected by their hands on each other's heads during Shabbat.
The interfaith aspect of the annual medical trip is celebrated in Guatemala every Friday as the community shares in Shabbat. Richard Walter, M.D., center, is an internist who has been working with the project since its inception.
Photo: Luis Aguilar

To contact Dr. Pramuk, please use the form below. To see photos and read about Ann Manganaro SL and her work in El Salvador, click here to access the spring/summer 2023 issue of Loretto Magazine.

To read all the articles in the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of Loretto Magazine, click here.

Contact Dr. Pramuk


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