NSCA – CPT
BS Biological Sciences Candidate
Camp Kesem FSU Chapter | Volunteer Coordinator
Florida State University
During the medical mission to Guyana and HERO, I was able to witness how the lack of basic necessities and knowledge affected the health of the population. Their general lack of basic health knowledge can be summed up by a young man’s legitimate confusion towards me telling him that smoking cigarettes was bad for him, and his look of terror knowing that one of his habitual rituals could end up as his downfall. The healthcare providers during the trip did a terrific job in aiding us and understanding that we were students who simply wanted to learn more about the healthcare profession. Not only was their understanding towards our lack of knowledge impressive, but also their full hearted devotion to serving the underserved. It was extremely humbling and respectable to me that these people would take time out of their busy schedules to help others. It served as a reiteration of a common theme that can be taken away from helping others in need: that serving others who do not have access to what may seem to us, everyday necessities, feels amazing. This feeling was reinforced by the response from the people of Guyana. During the entire trip, I felt the appreciation that was expressed by the people through their welcoming arms. I think this trip has shown me that giving back does not stop after establishing your medical career. Stagnancy, just like in any other situation, is unacceptable, and new goals should always be set because no matter how many people you have helped in your life, there will always be someone who might need it more. HERO is a wonderful organization, and I encourage anyone who is on the fence about the trip to do it, because it truly is a life changing experience.
The Joy of Giving in the Garden City
By Tavajay Campbell – PharmD Candidate 2017
International Pharmacy & Public Health APPE
While driving to one of our clinic locations outside the Guyana capital, I noticed a sign that read “You are now leaving Georgetown, the Garden City”. I wondered why it was referred to as the garden city, and it was not until our final day of the mission that I saw what was right in front of me the entire time: rows and rows of pink and white lotus flowers lining the sides of almost every road. How had I not noticed this foliage before? If even these vibrantly colored flowers could have escaped my attention, what did that say about my ability to see what is not often advertised — like the healthcare needs of so many people living in underserved communities?
When first presented with the opportunity by Dr. Suzanna Gim some three years ago to serve on an overseas medical mission, I knew it was something I had to do. And our mission to Guyana exceeded even my most generous expectations; it was healthcare in the purest form I’ve ever seen, with allied professionals from diverse disciplines coming together selflessly to serve those in need. The experience has opened my eyes to how effective inter-professional health care can be. The local communities showed up in droves — with mothers sometimes bringing their neighbors’ children if the parents were unable to do so. Our team demonstrated an amazing resourcefulness in overcoming such challenges as limited work space and even an unexpected illness that temporarily sidelined a member of our team. And the gratitude of the patients was simply overwhelming. The team at HERO and the Guyanese people have left me with many positive memories and I look forward to many more such opportunities to put my pharmacy expertise to practice in the service of those in need.
Finding Myself in the Service of Others
By Ashley John – PharmD Candidate 2017
International Pharmacy & Public Health APPE
Mahatma Gandhi is famously said to have remarked that “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” The wisdom of that insight was brought home to me with particular potency on a recent medical mission to Guyana conducted by the U.S.-based Health and Educational Relief (HERO).
For as long as I can remember, I have always had the urge to help others. My parents would try to take me to India every year so that I could remain close to our culture and tradition. On each of those visits, we would bring clothes, shoes and toys to give to people there, and we would try to help out as much as we could. . It was this spirit of giving that inspired me to take part in this recent mission to Guyana, where I could apply my professional training in the service of others.
There was much about being in Guyana that reminded me of the disparities in India’s healthcare system. In many areas, there is a severe shortage of medications. In order to obtain treatment, patients in underserved communities often have to pay lots of money and still may not get appropriate medical care in return. My own grandmother, who suffered from diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, was a victim of these disparities; she passed away a few years ago in India due to lack of proper treatment. Being in Guyana and witnessing the impact of similar inadequacies in underserved communities motivated me greatly to help as many of these patients as much as I could.
Our mission was not without its trials: having to deal with the heat, trying to organize all of the various medications and trying to figure out the proper flow in pharmacy, learning to manage and work with other people on the team, and dealing with the shortage of missing medications. But these were all manageable experiences in the field and constituted a tremendous learning experience. I’m glad I was selected to be a part of this medical team. Going to Guyana was my first medical mission and I loved every moment of it. I will definitely be undertaking similar missions in the future because there is no greater happiness to be found than losing yourself in the service of others.
A Truly Transformative Experience
By Hannah Oh – PharmD Candidate 2017
International Pharmacy & Public Health APPE
I had no idea what to expect before going to Guyana. Now I look back and want to tap on the shoulder of my past and say that I should have been much more excited.
I love to work. I love being busy, stressed, tired, and having no time for everything I want to do. Our first day of clinic in Guyana fed those fiends; virtually every minute of my time from 9AM to 5PM was actively spent working at the pharmacy and helping patients. Besides a mandatory break for lunch, the only other breaks I took were for water, when I was feeling dizzy and dehydrated from the heat. But this was not the same kind of “busy-ness” that I had always known; this was not about making money or forging ahead. This was not about me. This was about giving my all to help my patients in the eight short hours available to us. This was more than myself — more meaningful and more worthwhile. I had seen documentaries and pictures of other medical professionals helping those in less wealthy countries. The grateful faces of the patients and the happy faces of the professionals in scrubs were the usual scenes. Now I was privileged to be a part of that tableau.
I was grateful for the opportunity to serve. My patients accepted me, as their pharmacist and as a friend. No one asked what school I was from, or questioned the color of my skin, or cared how young or old I looked. That was a source of continuous encouragement throughout the day as I counseled patients in every way that I possibly could. And I could tell that they were listening intently, trying to retain what I was telling them, interested in what I had to say. I loved talking with these patients — joking with them, or just learning from them about the kinds of jobs they did and the types of produce they grew on their farms – items I had never heard of before.
At the end of the day, the individuals who took care of the church where our clinic was set up thanked us profusely and invited us to pray together. Soon were all holding hands in a circle of prayer and one of the men, who I actually had just happened to counsel, prayed for us. I teared up during his prayer, because I understood and felt his sincere thankfulness to God, and it was just such an honor for this man to think that I was being used as one of God’s vessels.
Regardless of the specific career path that lies ahead, this mission has really inspired me. There is so much you can read or learn about by other means, but living through the reality of it in person is a truly transformative experience. I hope to pursue similar volunteer medical missions in the future and I thank HERO for this amazing opportunity.