In a memorable and life-changing experience, 25 Philadelphia University undergraduate students recently trekked to Honduras to provide needed medical attention to residents in the rural towns of Morocelí and Potrerillos. As part of the Global Medical Brigades program, they spent several packed days offering basic care to those unable to travel to—or who can’t afford—the few clinics and hospitals in the country.
“I participated to make a difference,” said Tanvi Chaudhry, pre-medical studies student and Global Medical Brigades president. “I participated to help people who have so much less. I participated to fall in love with the magic of healthcare even more than I already have.”
In addition to delivering medical and dental treatment to 655 people, the PhilaU students distributed hygiene packs, donated clothes, taught students at an elementary school about the importance of recycling and built eco-stoves for families, which decrease asthma and improve indoor air quality. They worked with PhilaU faculty chaperones Anne Bower, professor of biology, and Matt Milkevitch, director of chemistry and biochemistry programs, as well as U.S. and Honduran medical professionals.
“Not only did we receive real-world experience in the healthcare field, but we were exposed to how people live in impoverished communities, which taught us to be more understanding and willing to give to others,” said Victoria Vance, pre-medical studies student and Global Medical Brigades vice president.
The group decided to travel to Honduras this spring because of the country’s severe lack of healthcare providers, Chaudhry said. Data show there is just one medical professional for each 10,000 people in the country. In comparison, the ratio is roughly one primary care doctor to 300 people in the U.S., according to the American Medical Association.
At the rural health clinics, the PhilaU students helped triage patients, worked with physicians on physical assessments and diagnoses, and filled prescriptions under the supervision of pharmacists. Healthcare professionals taught the students the basic practices of patient documentation, taking vital signs, dental and gynecology procedures, and the intensity of the doctor-patient problem-solving mechanism in the clinic.
“I was so impressed and proud of the organizational skills, planning, empathy, professionalism and teamwork of our students,” said Bower, noting the strong leadership of Chaudhry and Vance, in particular.
Over the months prior to the May 17-23 journey, students raised funds to pay for the trip and medicine and collected donations of more than 2,000 items to distribute in the hygiene packs, including toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, combs, shampoo, soap, condoms and hand sanitizers. PhilaU alumni raised $3,000 for medical and dental supplies.
“This life-changing experience empowered our students at the beginning of their medical careers and provided community members with much-needed medical attention to improve their quality of life,” Bower said. “In our final team meeting, the Honduran doctors praised our medical staff and the students for their dedication and compassionate patient care in a remote, challenging location. The friendship and generosity were shared by everyone and will not be forgotten.”
Milkevitch called it a “tremendous” experience, adding, “Without a doubt, students, faculty and healthcare professionals returned home changed, with greater healthcare knowledge and a heightened understanding of the needs of the medically underserved in Honduras.”
See a video from their trip below.
Photos courtesy/Matt Milkevitch, Tanvi Chaudhry and Victoria Vance