Odinachi (Oddie) Moghalu

Oddie Moghalu, OMS-II, TouroCOM-Middletown, spent three weeks going door-to-door in North Philadelphia, offering free medical screenings to people in the underserved community.

September 10, 2015

As a member of the Christian Medical and Dental Association, I had the opportunity to attend the Northeast Conference in Maryland that took place in January of this past year. That was where I heard about the Philadelphia Summer Medical Institute (SMI), a three-week health outreach program sponsored by Medical Campus Outreach Ministry of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and Esperanza Health Center.

It originally started in North Philadelphia in 1992 as a partnership of Esperanza Health Center and Medical Campus Outreach. The focus of the initial SMI was to provide childhood immunizations in response to a measles outbreak that affected the North Philadelphia’s Latino community.

Can you describe a typical day on the job?

A typical day started with breakfast, praise worship and prayer with the entire group—we spent time praying for our group and for the community we were serving. The morning visits to community members (going door-to-door) ran from 10 – 1 PM. We would be back for lunch from 1 – 2 PM and then we’d do the afternoon visits from 2 – 5 PM. Most days ran later than we expected, because we did not just want to walk into a home and walk out. As a team, we had a goal to spend time with the people we encountered, share stories with them, listen to them and, most importantly, be intentional in our encounters. We sought to not just cater to the physical needs of the people but also to share the love of God, the Great Physician.

‌Each SMI student also had one “shadow day” where we were given the opportunity to shadow doctors at the Esperanza Health Center. This was one of the most interesting days for me: I did not only shadow doctors, but I was also asked to see patients on my own. That day, I was able to put into practice some of the things I had learned in Physical Diagnosis and OMM.

What were some of the most rewarding lessons you gained from this experience?

For the entire three weeks that I spent in North Philadelphia, I lived together with the other 25 SMI students. Our host home was located right there in North Philly, so I saw and learned first-hand how much of an impact social, cultural, emotional, spiritual, and economic factors have on an individual’s health. I also learned that my calling to medicine is bigger than me, and that this is just a platform for me to serve the world and show God’s love.

SMI is fondly referred to as the “toughest summer you will love,” and that is exactly what it was for me. It was not just physically challenging, but also emotionally and spiritually challenging. It was difficult for me to reconcile the excesses we have with the fact that there are people who live within miles from me who are in desperate need for not just physical care but also emotional and spiritual care. These are people who don’t want to be seen as “projects,” but instead as human beings who deserve dignity and honor.

We often think that we have to travel thousands of miles to third-world countries to serve, but often forget that there is a huge demand for us as health care professionals right in our backyards.