QU Students Join with Horizons International (HHI) in a Medical Service Trip to the Dominican Republic
The world is a lot smaller than it once was. With the accessibility of international travel and electronic communication, thousands of miles is no longer an impossible barrier between two peoples. This concept also applies to medicine, as the five of us, Quinnipiac University PA students, learned in January 2015. Five first year PA students traveled with Health Horizons International (HHI) to participate in their tri-annual medical service trip. HHI is a non-profit organization, whose mission is to improve community health in the Puerto Plata region of the Dominican Republic. Due to political, geographical, and financial factors, health care is limited in this area, including the towns of Negro Melo, Arroyo de Leche, Severet, and Pancho Mateo. Arriving on a Saturday, the QU PA students met the rest of the HHI team (comprised of family physicians, public health workers, and community volunteers) and participated in orientation for the clinics. Clinics were held Monday to Thursday. Patients were seen in churches, schools, or their own houses. The majority of patients were in HHI’s chronic care program, which treats patients with diabetes, hypertension, asthma, and epilepsy. However, no one is turned away. During the afternoon, sick visits and child well visits occur.
During clinic days, students took vital signs in triage, ran labs such as urinalysis and blood glucose, prepared and distributed medications, and worked with the doctors to assess, diagnose, and treat patients. The exposure to patients in this setting has helped prepare us to be the best clinicians we can be. For example, we were able to learn how to properly use a translator/interpreter when working with patients. The most important lesson we experienced was that medicine is all about teamwork. Without good communication, trust, and cooperation between the doctors, students, volunteers, and patients, these clinics would not be possible.
On Friday, the medical team met to discuss patients requiring urgent or costly care, and how HHI can be of help. Money raised by the QU PA students was utilized to pay for referrals to specialists as well as diagnostic imaging for these patients. What is unique about HHI in comparison to other medical mission groups is that patients in HHI’s Chronic Care Program are seen between the medical service trips. Community health workers (CHW) see patients monthly. CHW are volunteers from the community who are trained by HHI to monitor vitals and blood glucose. This information is then relayed to physicians in the Dominican Republic as well as in the USA, so that appropriate adjustments can be made., and any serious issues can be addressed. This also provides the doctors a significant amount of data to work with when the clinics are held. The CHWs provide support to their patients, and as we learned, community is the name of the game in global medicine.
Throughout our time in the Dominican Republic, we were able to see the beautiful countryside, experience the culture (it is impossible to go anywhere without hearing the rhythm of bachata), and even had a little time to relax on the beach. On Saturday, we all returned home with a renewed vigor and understanding of what it means to practice medicine, especially on a global scale. Although our journey lasted only for one week, the memories and relationships we created will last a lifetime. Hasta pronto, Dominican Republic. We look forward to our next meeting.
Back row – left to right: Gaston Jeremiah, Chris Haniford, Patrick O’Brien, Grant Rynn, Logan Anderson, Cody Mauch, Nick Walsh
Front row – left to right: Tommy Manning, Brand Hunt, Zach Lavender, Matthew McBride, Brian Gerlach, Kyle McMahon, Jordan Silidker, Jordan Bevan
Back row – left to right: Cody Mauch, Nick Walsh, Kyle McMahon, Logan Anderson, Grant Rynn, Chris Haniford
Middle row – left to right: Zach Lavender, Tommy Manning, Patrick O’Brien
Front row – left to right: Brand Hunt, Jordan Silidker, Gaston Jeremiah, Brian Gerlach