Clanton native Cox heads to Peru

Published 3:24 pm Friday, July 23, 2010

Six Auburn University at Montgomery classmates left for Cusco, Peru on Friday morning for the International Cervical Cancer Foundation to assist in providing screenings and pap smears for women in the area.

Included in that group is Clanton native Samantha Cox, a biology major who will become certified in cytotechnology, a health care specialty that focuses on the microscopic evaluation of cell samples from the human body. Cytotechnologists screen for pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions, infectious organisms, and other diseases – detecting and reporting signs of cancer. Peru has one of the highest cervical cancer rates in the world.

Director of the cytotechnology program and leader of the trip Sonya Griffin encouraged Cox to embark on the journey to Peru to assist with screenings and pap smears for Peruvian women.

In addition to Cox, students participating in the trip include Leah Welcher of Alexander City, Charity Debose of Dothan, Mary Kathyrn Marks of Montgomery, Lynsey Renfroe of Montgomery and Michael Whiteside of Prattville. Griffin hails from Brundidge.

Volunteering for the trip cost each students approximately $2,500, which they raised by completing several fundraising projects both on and off of the AUM campus. Each student also received donations from their friends, family and several entities at AUM. Cox she and the other students sold raffle tickets. They set up a booth at last month’s Peach Jam Jubilee. She said the Chilton County Chamber of Commerce made a donation to her trip fund.

“We’re so very excited about being able to go,” she said. “I’m hoping this will be a very nice experience for me.”

For Cox, the Peru trip marks a major step in her pursuit of a career in medicine.

“We want to help underprivileged people who don’t have access to clinics and doctors like we do in the U.S.,” Cox said. “They set the clinics up, and they need volunteers. There is no one else trained to do the screenings.”

Once the students return to the homeland, they will begin their clinical studies during the fall semester. Cox will attend three separate clinical sites as part of her internships. She plans to graduate in December. The Peru trip also serves as part of the students’ internships.

She has also never traveled outside of the United States, which makes this trip extra exciting.

“The trip is to help us broaden our knowledge of everything, which I think it will do greatly,” she said.

The students will graduate with bachelor’s degrees in biology and certification in cytotechnology. Those certified tend to pursue careers in hospital and private labs.

The group will record a blog during their trip, which you can find at