Medical students lead mission in Nicaragua

October 27, 2011 | Features, UToday
By Nicolette Jett

Fourth-year medical students Erik White and Bill Myers examined a patient in Nicaragua.

Leon, Nicaragua, has an estimated population of 400,000, making it the second largest city in the country. It’s also one in which reliable and safe health care for those who cannot afford it is a potential concern.

The University of Toledo College of Medicine united with 21 medical and nursing students to fund a weeklong trip to Nicaragua during the summer as part of a medical mission to assist Leon residents.

The idea of the medical mission to Nicaragua was started a few years back by a former UT medical student who spent time in the country. Since then, the mission has been passed on yearly to a medical student who presents leadership abilities and devotes his or her time to the pursuit of caring for others.

Fourth-year medical student Tanveer Mollah examined a young patient in Nicaragua.

Victoria Bradford, a fifth-year medical student from Toledo, was the leader for the recent medical mission. She received help from peers Laura Kistler and Meghan Horn.

“I really believe in this trip — the goals and the people who participate,” said Bradford, who also is pursuing a master of business administration degree at UT. “I have directly witnessed the great generosity of the team members and people who have supported us along the way. We started out as separate individuals who did not know much about each other, and by the end of the week, we transformed [ourselves] into a cohesive group who came together to deliver health care to our patients.”

Students and faculty ran the Nicaragua Medical Mission with help from the UT Medical Mission Hall of Fame. Everyone involved raised their own funds for supplies and medication by holding fundraisers and bake sales and sending donation letters. During their week in Nicaragua, they also partnered with an American nongovernmental organization called El Ayudante, which helped coordinate transportation and clinics.

In total, more than 1,000 patients received medical care that week, ranging from pediatrics, dental, OB/GYN and internal medicine. As part of the Women’s Health Initiative, the group provided Pap testing and provided funding to make sure every test was interpreted by pathologists. Money also was left in Leon for patients who may need further testing.

“I’ve learned more about the country of Nicaragua and the culture that I otherwise would not have had the chance to understand without participating in the trip,” Bradford said. “I got to see what health care is like in Nicaragua through working in our clinics and touring the main hospital in Leon. I have had the opportunity to really put into action the values of medicine and care for the underserved.”

“The mission to Nicaragua was a wonderful experience for all students involved and a great way to utilize their skills learned from inside the classroom in different settings,” said Dr. Kristopher Brickman, associate professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine and director of global health.

“The Office of Global Health supports and encourages as many students as possible to participate in medical missions,” he said. “These missions are a way to expand involvement to not only medical students, but also to undergraduates who are interested.”

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