Mission to Mbaise

During the beginning of April I had the opportunity to travel to Nigeria with my mother to go visit family members.

April 20, 2012

During the beginning of April I had the opportunity to travel to Nigeria with my mother to go visit family members. While there we learned that there was a medical mission that was going to start and run through the course of a week in a town called Mbaise in Imo State Nigeria. The mission included doctors, nurses, and different healthcare professionals from various health institutions here in the United States and local volunteers from the town where the mission was being held in Nigeria.  My mother and I thought it would be a great experience if we both participated in the mission, so we volunteered and registered as part of the team for the entire week of the mission. My mother who is an operating room nurse at Richmond University Medical Center had a lot to contribute to the mission while I was primarily at the pharmacy.  Mbaise Medical Mission provided free medical services for the people in the town of Mbaise. The services included an eye clinic, cataract surgery for those who qualified, dental work, OBGYN clinic and pharmacy services to name a few, and was held at the local hospital of the town. While I was primarily in the pharmacy I did have a chance to interact with the other health clinics that were running while my mother worked with the surgical team, assisting with intraocular lens replacement surgery for cataract patients.

The role of the pharmacy was vital to the success of the medical mission. All the people that came out for the free medical services were written a prescription even if it was just for multi-vitamins.  The pharmacy functioned just like any other pharmacy, each prescription had to be signed off by a physician and verified by a pharmacist after it was filled before it could be dispensed. The medications for chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes were counted out and packaged for a 30 day supply prior to the start of each day.  We had our fast movers, which were mainly anti-malaria, anti-helmintics and short acting inhalers. We further organized the medications according to disease state and within those disease states it was further arranged in alphabetical order according to the generic name. This method made it very useful and faster to access and fill the medications as needed. 

The medications that were used and dispensed in the pharmacy were brought by the organization “Mbaise USA” over from the US, or bought at the local pharmacies. The two major classes of drugs that were used the most were anti malaria  (artemther/lumefantrine) and anti helmintics (iodoquinol, mebendazole, albendazole) medications due in part to the geographic location, sanitary conditions, and purity of the drinking water supply in the area.  In addition to this there was a high demand for antibiotic medications, which sadly we ran out of by the 4th day of the mission.  The amount of traffic that flowed through the pharmacy was tremendous, and we filled an average of 1800 scripts between the hours of 9AM to 6PM for five days straight. The pharmacy team worked tirelessly to keep up with the high volume of scripts that had to be filled and I saw my role evolve in the pharmacy from just helping to fill prescriptions and counsel patients on the use of the medication to helping to manage the pharmacy and their volunteers in order to keep up with the fast turn around expected of the pharmacy and to have a more efficient and productive pharmacy overall.

The goal of the mission was not only the free clinics but also to educate the people and the nurses from the area. The pharmacy played an important role by educating the people on the conditions they had and the prescriptions they were picking up. For most of the people visiting the clinic, this was their first time seeing a medical doctor in years. Due to the lack of education, finances, and medical recourses of the area most were not even aware of the medical conditions that they were living with. To put things in perspective most of the nurses there did not even know how to use a gluco-meter. For most it was their first time seeing one and had to be taught on how to operate the device. The local nurses were even reeducated and given a diabetes lecture. This again stems from the lack of medical resources.

The experiences I have gained from participating in this medical mission are unparalleled. Not only did I get a chance to serve an underprivileged area of the world but I also played an instrumental role in the successes of the pharmacy while holding true to vision and values of Touro College of Pharmacy.  Understanding the importance of continuous medical education and support of missions like the Mbaise Medical mission is critical. These missions are of the utmost importance because they allow health care professional and volunteers like myself to revitalize and rebuild the system of health care in these third world countries. My time working with the Mbaise Medical Mission turned out to be one of the best and most rewarding vacations I have ever taken, and I plan to sustain missions like these through out the rest of my career as a future health care provider.