International Medicine Club Travels to Nicaragua
Students from TouroCOM’s Middletown Campus Gain Experience in Helping the Under-Served
Fourteen students from Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine (TouroCOM) Middletown spent a week learning first-hand about the health challenges of developing nations while visiting Nicaragua in June.
“It was a striking level of poverty coming from the United States,” stated second-year student Alex Casey, 25, the travel coordinator for TouroCOM-Middletown’s International Medicine Club. The club helped run the trip with Global Brigades, a non-profit that helps organize volunteer medical missions.
Each day the medical students woke at dawn and traveled for two hours over bumpy mountain roads to visit isolated Nicaraguan settlements. Once in the settlements, the medical students would set up different stations to check the patients’ vitals and medical history. Afterwards, they would pass along the information to four Nicaraguan doctors who would then diagnose and provide medication to the individuals. Each student who travelled as part of the trip was required to fundraise to provide the money for the medications.
"It was a great experience," said first-year student Shanique Champagnie, 23. "It was my first time doing a medical trip and finding out what healthcare is like in other countries. People were so grateful for the help they received."
Students also ran charla, conversation stations, where they talked with adults about proper sexual practices, and another charla for children where students discussed basic hygiene like teeth brushing and hand-washing. Despite the language and cultural differences, the students found it easy to communicate and relate to their patients.
“It was cool to see in a place so foreign the people had the same hopes and dreams that we have,” explained Casey.
The most common ailments the students encountered were diseases related to parasites that afflicted the Nicaraguans because of a lack of clean water. One day during their stay, students got their hands dirty digging and laying pipes for a clean water facility by one village. The visit helped remind many of the students why they went to medical school.
“You go into medical school bright eyed and through the first and second-year, year it’s easy to lose sight [of your goal.]” said Casey. “This trip is exactly what you picture going to medical school for.”
The weeklong trip also put their medical training into perspective, said second-year student Youstina Asaad, 24, the secretary of TouroCOM-Middletown’s International Medicine Club.
“Access to doctors is not something everyone has,” she explained. “One day I’ll be able to provide this medical care to those around me. My goal is to work internationally and this solidified it.”
Watch a video of the visit.