“I Made a Vow to Serve Poor, Underserved Communities”

Two TouroCOM Middletown Students Join Medical Mission to El Salvador

June 29, 2018
Two newly minted TouroCOM Middletown doctors joined a mission to El Salvador.
Two newly minted TouroCOM Middletown doctors joined a mission to El Salvador.

OMS IV Nickolas Meier and Lauren Costa, together with TouroCOM preceptor Dr. Craig Amnnont took the trip with the Global Health Outreach, a short-term mission arm of the Christian Medical and Dental Association. The two were part of a group of physicians and dentists that saw more than 770 patients and gave out more than 2200 prescriptions while based out of a small city outside of San Salvador. Local residents, many of them teenagers, worked as translators for the doctors.

Costa, whose father grew up poor in Brazil, said that mission was “close to her heart.”

“I vowed after being accepted into medical school to serve poor, underserved communities and utilize the medical skills and career I had to help those who have close to nothing,” she said.

The group saw cases ranging from simple sinus infections to parasites and serious septic wounds. When cases were too serious for the group to handle, patients were connected with healthcare providers in the area. (A contingent of doctors from El Salvador were also part of the trip.)

“I met a gentleman who was struck by a vehicle and had an open wound from December,” said Meier.  

Costa saw a 7-month-old baby who suffered from scabies and whose mother couldn’t afford the treatment.

“I was not okay with just ‘hoping for the best,’” she said. “I collaborated with another physician from a neighboring country and we bounced ideas off of one another until we figured out another plan for the patient that would lead to a successful recovery.”

Meier saw an elderly couple who had been turned away from a local hospital because they couldn’t afford to pay for treatment.

“There wasn’t much we could do for them,” Meier lamented. “We prayed with them and tried to give them hope.”

Meier, who once considered a career in the ministry (and played base for a local church in Middletown), said that the trip allowed him to combine two passions: faith and medicine.

The two also witnessed the complications from non-existent medical care: bones that hadn’t set correctly after a break and people who had gone blind from untreated cataracts.

“These trips always allow me to see how most of the world really lives, the challenges that they face, and the importance of going and helping out,” said Costa. “It’s a huge wake-up call and extremely humbling, you let go of any pride and grab onto a sense that this team you’re a part of is truly making a small difference.”

At the tail-end of his trip, Meier spoke with his 16-year-old translator and discovered that her family was extremely poor and surviving on a dollar a day so that their daughter could attend school. Meier sponsored the rest of the funding for the school year.

“It’s just a blessing to be able to do that,” Meier said.