Medical brigades troop to Honduras
Thirty-one students and 11 professionals, including physicians and physical therapists, journeyed to a village in Honduras this January to assist locals with their health care and public health.
The group, called the Washington University Medical Brigades, set up medical clinics in three villages.
Each clinic was divided into several sections. The Medical Brigades first set up a triage where University students and faculty took vitals and reviewed patient history. The workers then set up a consultation room for diagnoses and medication prescriptions where University students could shadow doctors leading the local health care efforts. At the pharmacy station—the busiest of the three—locals received medication.
The group also provided the Honduran village with sustainable care.
Different chapters of the Medical Brigades often return to the same village, allowing the workers to keep long-term records of local patients. Villagers have returned to the clinics with the same problems making long-term care possible, according to Silvia Kim, one of the founders of the University chapter of Medical Brigades.
“We were also doing public health programs where we actually built latrines ourselves and improved their chimneys to improve their cooking environment,” Kim said.
Not only did the students learn about medical practice from this trip, but they also improved their Spanish speaking abilities.
“The students would come and join with the physicians and shadow them, so they got a lot of hands-on experience,” Kim said. “We were able to use our Spanish skills too to explain to [the patients] how to take medicines and how many dosages per day to take.”
This is the first year that the University took part in a trip like this because Kim, along with Bo Lee and Seonha Park, started the chapter of Global Medical Brigades last February.
This year’s trip to Honduras, they said, helped more than 1,000 patients. Normally the Medical Brigade trips help approximately 2,500 patients, but since many villagers go to work in the mountains in January, there were problems attracting patients this season.
According to Kim, the University is going to continue its work with Medical Brigades. In the future, Medical Brigades hopes to host speakers on campus from the national organization to discuss public health programs and different brigades that students can become involved with. In addition, the group would like to hold awareness events on campus and workshops where students can learn vitals and medical Spanish for future involvement in Medical Brigade programs.
The University’s chapter will continue to collaborate with the national Global Medical Brigades.
Global Medical Brigades’ Web site describes the organization as an “international network of more than 50 university clubs and volunteer organizations that provide communities in developing nations with sustainable health care solutions.”
Global Medical Brigades is focusing on Honduras, but it later plans on expanding to more countries. In 2007, the organization facilitated more than 1,000 volunteers to take part in programs and help more than 40 communities and 40,000 patients.
“I believe this is the very first attempt by Wash. U. students to plan out a clinical mission trip abroad from scratch. I know of other mission trips abroad, but they are usually not student led or clinical,” Kim said. “Our group is special in that we also provide hands-on experience to the massive pre-med population of Wash. U.”
Lisa Clark, a Student Health Services physician who accompanied Wash. U. Medical Brigades to Honduras, said she was amazed with the success of both the students and the program.
“The students were absolutely amazing,” Clark said. “They organized, fundraised and got all of the information. They worked together really well and managed to do all this while they were going to school. It was really impressive.”
The experience that this trip gave to the students allowed many of them to realize that they want to pursue careers in medicine in the future.
“A lot of people confirmed their desire to pursue either a field of medicine or a field of health care,” Kim said.