UMKC Global Medical Brigade: At Work in Honduras

At Work in Honduras
NOTE: You can follow members of the UMKC Medical Brigade and the group’s activities in Honduras through a daily diary: UMKC Global Medical Brigade: At Work in Honduras. Check back each day during the next week for an update from a member of the UMKC Medical Brigade.

DAY SIX: MAY 29, 2013:

Nick Gier
Nick Gier

Today was the last full day for us in Honduras, so Global Brigades took us out to an island to relax on a beach. After a multi-hour bus ride, we arrived at a coastal town to get on boats. Two boats took our group on another half hour ride to one of the many islands near the coast. We had this entire island to ourselves and I didn’t see anyone else the entire time we were there.

While there, we played beach soccer and got to relax in the ocean. We spent a lot of time conversing with the Honduran Global Brigades staff and the volunteers from Nottingham. It was a melting pot of three different cultures and a learning experience for everyone there. I traveled down there knowing next to no Spanish, but within one week I was able to pick up enough of the language to ask basic questions and communicate a little with people who spoke no English. I learned a lot about Britain and how their medical system works from the Nottingham students. Likewise, they bombarded us with questions about how the UMKC six-year program works, how traditional undergraduate and medical schools work, how the American medical system works, and what extracurricular activities we all participate in.
The British students had to leave shortly after we got back from the beach. They were going to be in Honduras for another week working with the Public Health wing of Global Brigades. It was sad to see them go after working so closely with them throughout the week, but they had much more good work to do down there.
That night we went to the ocean side of San Lorenzo to watch the sun set over the sea. Unfortunately, it was too cloudy to see it so we went to hang out in the town square. There was a big courtyard right in the middle of San Lorenzo with fountains and statues where people went to relax at the end of the day. Kids were kicking a ball around while others were walking around with friends. The square even had a stage at the end for performances. It was a unique opportunity for us to see the local way of life.
COMING HOME: The next day we woke up early to have a quick breakfast before we loaded up our bags and headed back to Tegucigalpa for our flights. It was bittersweet to leave because of how much I enjoyed my time down there. It was hard to say goodbye to our guides from Global Brigades. They were extremely helpful all week and made sure we had fun at every occasion. I hope to have a chance to head back down to Honduras next year. We provided care that these communities rarely receive and it was great to see the impact we made.
DAY FIVE: MAY 28, 2013:
GierNicholas Gier – We were at the second school again today, with a different nearby community coming to see us. This was our fourth and final day of clinic in Honduras and the last day to experience working in the different stations in the clinic. Volunteers were eager to try out a little bit of each position, but most of us quickly went back to wherever we were needed or whatever we were best at to keep the patient flow consistently moving.
The complaints patients had today were similar to the previous days. We saw a lot of people with headaches and stomach pain. Many complained of pain all over, which was usually referred to as “bone pain.” There were a few patients that required quicker medical attention. Some diabetics had blood sugars running over 300, where 100 is the normal blood sugar level. One even had their blood sugars over 600 and was taken to a local hospital by the Global Brigades staff. We also saw a child with a burn that went through the full thickness of their skin that required debridement. The burn victim showed me how much these communities don’t expect medical care, as the child’s mother didn’t mention the burn until we were almost done seeing the family in triage. This was an injury that would cause someone to immediately go to an emergency department in the USA. The people of this community in Honduras take these wounds and live with them because it is easier to live with the burn than to figure out how to travel to a hospital and pay for the care.
At the end of the day some of the volunteers and leaders from the local communities gathered with us. They thanked us and we thanked their volunteers for helping us make this all possible. We had seen 1,184 patients in our four days of work. We were all glad that we saw over 1,000 patients because we could feel it.
Much like the day before, most of us quickly fell asleep on the ride back to the compound.
DAY FOUR, MAY 27, 2013
GierNicholas Gier – We were at a new location for our third day of clinic. This school was smaller than our last location, but the people were just as polite. I noticed this community lined up their elderly first, followed by women with babies to young children, and then followed by everyone else.
Because this location was smaller, we had to set up more of our stations outside, which made this location much hotter. By this time we had all grown accustomed to the different roles in the clinic and had patients rolling along quickly. We never felt too comfortable though; there were still dogs and chickens walking around us as we spoke to patients. This location also had no electricity or outlets whatsoever, so we had to bring a generator to power the network for our laptops to be able to input patient information. The community was extremely appreciative for our service. Due to the heat and long day, most of us fell asleep on the hour and a half bus ride back to the compound.
DAY THREE, MAY 26, 2013
GierNicholas Gier – Today we went to clinic at the same location as yesterday, but a different community came to us. We learned a lot yesterday, so today was run in a much more efficient fashion. We saw 300 patients in an hour less than we did yesterday. I really started to realize how much the communities appreciated us being there. We noticed that many people put on their best clothes to come to the clinic and were extremely well behaved compared to the patients we see in America.We got to visit the house of a local family during the day to see the conditions they live in and how they contribute to the health problems they face. Visiting that house made me realize how much of an uphill battle volunteers face in this part of the world. We cannot change their way of life, but we can definitely work to make little improvements to try to make differences that improve the quality of their health in the future.

I’ve reflected back on the past few months and how I’ve prepared for this trip. It was difficult balancing the preparations and medical school at the same time, but being here makes me wish I had put in 110 percent effort for these people. They are beyond grateful for the care we provide, and it is amazing to see how quickly we can make a difference in the community. Even if I do not come back next year, I want to work with the students going to help them have the most successful trip they can possibly have just because I know that effort directly translates to better care for the patients here in Honduras.

DAY TWO, MAY 25, 2013
GierNICHOLAS GIER  – Today we had our first day of clinic. A 40 minute drive took us to a school out in rural Honduras. The school was within a gated compound with several rooms facing a large open courtyard. The moment we got off the bus we got busy setting up each room for a specific purpose.

A massive line of locals were waiting for us outside the gate. They would come in and meet with some volunteers from their community to get some very basic information, such as name and age. Next, they went to triage. Students from UMKC and Nottingham would find out the patients’ complaints and send them to the next room. There the patients would visit with the volunteer doctors that came on the trip with us, along with local doctors, to be examined. After that, they could go to the pharmacy to get their medications. Another room was set up for dental procedures. People needing extractions, seals, and fillings could come to get their teeth worked on.

Out in the courtyard, we set up our Charla station. Children would come there to learn how to properly brush their teeth and to receive fluoride treatments. We gave the children toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss so they could continue their care and prevent future dental problems.

It is hard to describe how vibrant the scene was. Patients were constantly moving from room to room while children were out at the Charla. A couple local dogs and some chickens wandered around the compound.

By the end of the day we had seen 304 patients, but it was hard to tell because we all were kept busy doing our jobs at our stations. Tomorrow we will set up clinic at the same location, but another local community is coming to see us. I’m excited because it is exposing me to how important medical care is to people in distant places that can rarely see a physician.

DAY ONE, MAY 24, 2013
GierNICHOLAS GIER – We made it to Honduras! Most of the group met at the Kansas City International Airport by 4 a.m. to fly down, and some met in St. Louis to travel down from there.  Groups flew through Houston, Atlanta, or Miami to get down to Tegucigalpa in Honduras.

It is surreal how different it is here. The terrain is extremely mountainous. The road to our compound winded around one hill to the next for over two hours. There were many restaurants and brands around the airport that we recognized, such as Burger King, Popeye’s, Church’s Chicken, and Pizza Hut, but within five minutes of driving they all disappeared. There are many people living in this country at a bare minimum. After two hours of weaving around the mountains we came to the hotel we will be staying at for the rest of the week. Everyone is extremely friendly and appreciates what we will be doing. We had to spend awhile sorting all of the medications we were bringing in preparation for our first clinic tomorrow. It’s been an eye opening first day here and sleep deprivation is pushing everyone to sleep early. I’ve had a good time with my classmates today and meeting the students from England on this trip with us. I hope we can run clinic tomorrow smoothly!

UMKC SOM students take part in medical efforts in Honduras

Sixteen students from the UMKC School of Medicine are part of a 22-member team of volunteers from UMKC and Missouri that will travel to Honduras to provide medical care in regions where it is sorely needed.

The local students are joining another group of students from Nottingham, England, in southern Honduras to set up tents to use as community clinics for four days.

Nicholas Gier

“We’re bringing three physicians with us so we’ll do triage and a lot of the basic stuff,” said Nick Gier, MS 3, one of the students who helped organize the trip. “We’ll do as much as we can, then present patients to the physicians. About half the (UMKC) group is Year 3 students, so we have been in clinic and do have some experience in that.”

The students are part of an organization called Medical Brigades, an arm of Global Brigades, which is the largest student-led global health and sustainable development organization in the world. The UMKC chapter is one of nearly 300 university groups around the world that provide sustainable health initiatives to Honduran and Panamanian communities with limited access to health care.

Communities served by the Global Brigades receive a brigade nearly each three to four months. During those visits, patients are treated at public health workshops where electronic records are kept for future visits and to monitor overall community health trends.

“These people in rural Honduras, they don’t get regular medical care,” Gier said. “This may be the only time they get any medical care for months or longer. I’ve volunteered at the Sojourner Clinic (the UMKC student-run free health clinic for the homeless) a lot and found that really rewarding. It’s just getting out and helping those who really need it.”

Members of the Medical Brigades financed the trip and collected needed medical supplies through donations from various companies and individuals throughout the area.

Gier said the group wasn’t informed of any unique diseases or cases they might encounter, but volunteers will quickly become familiar with the prevalent health issues in the communities they’re serving.

“I’m going with a good group of people,” Gier said. “I know we won’t be bored. I know we’re going to have fun, do as much as we can, and get our jobs done.

UMKC Medical Brigade members in Honduras

Seenu Abraham, MS 2; Alexa Altman, MS 3; Roshan Babu, MS 3; Kayla Binns; Haley Bray, MS 3; Jessica Dudeck; Peter Everson, MS 3; Amanda Fletcher, MS 3; Nicholas Gier, MS 3; Katherine Glaser, MS 3; Omar Karadaghy, MS 2; McKenzie Lutz, MS 3; Nathan Lavoy, MS 2; Nicholas Lawson, MS 2; Brett Parrott; Michael Pavlisin, MS 2; Janessa Pennington, MS 3; Dionysios Piskopos, MS 2; Hima Veeramachaneni, MS 2.

One thought on “UMKC Global Medical Brigade: At Work in Honduras

  1. This is so neat and I think you guys did an amazing job! I hope I get the chance to do this! >_<

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