A group of second-year Physician Assistant students at NSU-Jacksonville (Kacie Brewer, Theresa Davey, Kara Forinash, Bruna Purgato, JoAnna Roberts, Rachel Seeds, and Mary Katherine Wampler) put our newly-honed clinical skills to use this August when we embarked on a medical mission trip to LaCeiba, Honduras. Along with two professors (Angela Dunaway, PharmD., PA-C, and Hoikee Ng, PA-C), and joined by a physician, his son, and a pre-med student, our team served through the Presbyterian service organization Mission to the World.
During the week-long mission, our team brought medical care to the people of two impoverished communities. In La Fe, a village with no running water on the outskirts of La Ceiba, we ran our “clinic” in two rooms of one of the villager’s houses. Our patients, most of them women and small children, huddled under a tin roof on the other side of a sheet we had rigged up as a partition, as they waited to be seen. In Armenia Bonito, nestled in the rainforest, our clinic was in the classrooms of a school that is being built. The medical conditions we’ve been studying took on new significance as we assessed real cases of dehydration, expectant mothers, reactive airway disease, gastroenteritis, diabetes, and congestive heart failure. Some patients had real physical needs, such as the young boy with a broken arm, who got a splint made of tongue depressors until proper casting equipment could be acquired. Others simply needed someone to talk to, like the teenaged girl who complained of headaches whenever her little brother screamed. Each person who came to the clinic received a month supply of vitamins, as well as a parasite medication. In four days, we cared for 323 patients.
As in many impoverished areas, the people we served in Honduras face the daily problems of inadequate sanitation and lack of a clean water source. In addition to running the medical clinic, our team also gave educational courses on disease prevention, water purification methods, nutrition, and dental hygiene.
The medical mission to Honduras was a wonderful experience for everyone involved. While we went with the hope of making a difference in the lives people who would not otherwise have access to medical care, we came away realizing that the people we met had made a huge impact on our lives as well. Whether it was with a smile or a simple “Hola”, it was amazing to discover how rapidly we were able to build relationships with the people we met, despite language barriers and cultural differences. We were inspired by their willingness to allow us to come into their lives, and to care for them and their children. The challenges we faced and the experiences we shared will no doubt continue to resonate with us as we continue on the path of becoming Physician Assistants.