Foundation launched by St. Agnes sister helps Nicaraguan women attend medical school

St. Agnes Sr. Diane Bauknecht (front center) poses with students in their sixth year of study May 22. The students, who have received aid from Adelante Mujer, are set to become doctors in December. (Sr. Marise Meis, CSA)

What does a retired professor do when she finds rich academic talent among indigenous Nicaraguan high school students and learns that many of these young women want to become doctors but have no possibility of paying for medical school?

In the case of St. Agnes Sr. Ann McKean, she initiated Adelante Mujer/Advance Woman, a foundation whose mission is to aid women who want to become doctors in the eastern region of Nicaragua, an area in dire need of improved health care.

The country's Caribbean coastal area is among the poorest in Central America -- second only to Haiti. It has but one doctor for every 3,000 inhabitants. Only 4 percent of women in eastern Nicaragua can even afford to go to a university, McKean told NCR in a series of email exchanges.

Such need can concentrate one's twilight years, she's discovered. When she founded Adelante Mujer in 2009, her goal was to win approval of the venture by the Sisters of St. Agnes, headquartered in Fond du Lac, Wis., where McKean now lives in active retirement. She made several trips to Nicaragua in 2009, studying three universities before selecting the University of the Autonomous Regions of the Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast -- better known as URACCAN -- to be a partner for the foundation.

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