WHO? University of Texas students in Global Medical Training club.
WHEN? January 3-10, 2018
WHAT? A medical trip to help provide healthcare to people in villages living in poverty.
After a long week in Panama, it’s time to head back to the States. I am so thankful for another opportunity to travel and serve others abroad. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect going into this trip, but it ended up being a great experience.
I went on this trip with an organization called Global Medical Training (GMT). GMT is a national organization made up of clubs at many colleges across the USA who work to make healthcare and medicine available to people living in poverty. Throughout the school year, we volunteer around Austin and have medical speakers come to our meetings, but students also have the opportunity to go on 1 of the 5 UT trips every year to Panama, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, or Peru. There are GMT staff, which includes translators, doctors, and guides, who are with us the entire trip. All the medicine we give out is funded by our club at UT through fundraisers throughout the semester.
Day 1: January 3, 2018 Travel Day!🇺🇸➡️✈️➡️🇵🇦
Day 2: January 4, 2018
On our first full day in Panama, we had a short orientation with the GMT staff and then we headed to the Panama Canal. It was definitely cool to get to go there, but not as exciting as I had imagined. It was also quite crowded so I wasn’t able to see much. But none the less, I have now been to the Panama Canal! It is for sure an engineering wonder. After the canal, we drove 4 hours to Santiago, the town where we would be staying the rest of the week.
Day 3-Day 7: January 5-8, 2018
The next 4 days were our clinic days. Every day, we went to a different village that was between 15-45 minutes away from our hotel in Santiago. When we arrived, we would split into groups of 3-4 students+1 translator. After the GMT staff set up the pharmacy, the doctors would start sending patients to us. We would begin by asking about the patient’s medical history and then why they came to see us that day. After we asked all the questions we felt we needed to ask, we would talk amongst ourselves and decide what we thought the diagnosis is. I know this sounds kind of crazy because we aren’t even certified nurses or doctors yet. That’s how I felt before the trip, too. But I learned that for the most part, we continually saw the same problems and after a while, it was easy to diagnose the patients. Of course, our probable diagnosis was definitely not the final decision. When we were ready, we would raise our hand to call a Panaminian doctor over. We would then explain to the doctor what was going on with the patient and what we thought was wrong with them. Then, the doctor would ask the patient a few questions and either confirm our diagnosis or tell us where we went wrong.
We also got a lot of practice writing prescriptions (in español!). For every patient, we would write the medication they were receiving and the directions for taking that medicine.
At first, I felt like I wasn’t learning too much, but as the days went by, I realized there were a lot of small things I was learning that will help me in the future. Things like why you give ibuprofen over acetaminophen, the symptoms for a viral respiratory infection versus a bacterial one, or the effects of high blood pressure. Speaking of blood pressure, I also got a lot of practice taking blood pressure and listening to heart and lungs. It is always good to get to practice those skills and gain more experience.
Another part of clinic I really enjoyed was home visits. Every day, a few students would get to go on a home visit. These were trips to patient’s houses who were for some reason unable to make it to the main clinic site we were at. I liked these home visits a lot because it gave me the opportunity to look more into our patient’s lives and understand a little more about their background and lifestyle. My eyes were really opened to what poverty really is and all my concepts about what I thought poverty looks like were dropped when I went on these home visits.
The last part of clinic I really enjoyed were the kiddos!!!! There were a lot of children every day and on our 2nd and 4th clinic day we got to play with them. We played pato, pato, ganso (duck, duck, goose), red light green light, volleyball, and other games. They were so adorable and really fun to hang out with. We brought goodie bags with us to hand out to all the kids we saw and they loved them. The goodie bags included toys, candy, stickers, and hygiene items like socks, toothpaste, chapstick, etc.
Okay, I lied. One more thing about clinic! I loved, loved, loved hearing spanish 24/7 and getting to practice my spanish. For those who don’t know, I am taking spanish class in college and I have a strong desire to one day be fluent. It is a difficult goal, but I believe knowing other languages is so, so important. It’s not only important in the business world, but also just in life. It’s nice to be able to communicate with people from a small village in Panama who I wouldn’t be able to communicate with otherwise if I didn’t know Spanish. I am certainly not even close to being fluent, but I can for sure say this trip helped me to improve. There were many small moments of pride when I actually understood exactly what our patient was telling us before our translator translated it to English. Needless to say, I really love the Spanish language and I am excited to continue practicing and learning.
Day 7: January 9, 2018
After a long week of clinic, we drove about an hour to a nearby beach where we got to relax and hang out together all afternoon. A bunch of us rode on a floaty inflatable where a boat would pull us through the water. It was a lot of fun, but an arm workout for sure! Hanging at the beach was a great change after an exhausting week.
Day 8: January 10, 2018
THANK YOU TO GMT PANAMA STAFF AND MY FELLOW TRIPPERS FOR MAKING THIS AN INCREDIBLE WEEK❤️
Texan On The Go