Making her mark, paving the way

Paula Callo '89

Paula Callo ’89 meets with two of her vocational nursing students at Midland College in Midland, Texas.

Paula Callo '89 left a permanent mark at private Trinity School in Midland, Texas. When she was employed as the school nurse for eight years in the mid 90s, she noticed the lunch program lacked many nutritional choices. "Nutrition is so important, and you know what they say, ‘you are what you eat'!"

Callo initially pushed for more fruits and vegetables and was rewarded with a salad bar. Encouraged but not yet satisfied, she successfully advocated for the removal of soda machines. "Now even the french fries are baked, not fried! At first, people were so mad at me, but before I left Trinity, we had a whole wall of salad bars. And the kids enjoyed eating their veggies!"

A graduate of the Bachelor of Science in Professional Arts degree earned through distance education, 54-year-old Callo now teaches nutrition, among other subjects, in the Licensed Vocational Nursing program at Midland College. As an associate professor, she instructs 60 students in Midland, plus another 20 students at a satellite campus in Fort Stockton, 100 miles north. The program has a near-perfect pass rate and 50 percent go on to become RNs.

She and her husband, Dr. Guillermo Callo, are also active in the Peruvian American Medical Society (PAMS), an organization of Peruvian physicians and other health professionals now living in the United States. Their primary objective, fostered through medical missions, is improvement of medical education and public health in Peru.

Callo and her husband typically make two trips a year with PAMS, each lasting a week to a month. "We bring everything in. The equipment, antibiotics, everything," she says. "Nothing is taken from the local hospitals or communities."

The medical care they provide is not normally easily accessible or affordable for poor Peruvians. As Callo notes, "There's no developed health care there, so we have lines and lines of people waiting." While there, they also provide specialized medical expertise to local doctors, medical students and interns.

The medical work performed by Callo and her group - all free to Peruvians - has included cardiac surgery, plastic surgery to repair cleft palates and cleft lips, treatment of burn victims, ob-gyn procedures and laparoscopic surgeries. Since 1994, PAMS missions have performed more than 6,100 surgeries and seen approximately 60,000 patients. The most satisfying part of Callo's work in Peru is witnessing how a treatment changes someone's life. "It's exhausting, but absolutely incredible," she says. "You did something for someone you don't even know, and it changed their life."

It seems Callo has left a permanent mark in Peru, too.