TouroCOM Students Take on Nicaragua

TouroCOM-Harlem and TouroCOM-Middletown students tackle health care in Nicaragua during winter break.

January 29, 2015

This past winter break, twelve TouroCOM students traveled on a ten-day medical service trip to Nicaragua through Global Brigades, a non-profit organization that sends volunteers to third-world countries to assist in improving health services.

Five students from TouroCOM-Middletown (Jackie Lee, OMS-I; Sam Sirotnikov, OMS-I; Christian Hanley, OMS-I; Michael Simon, OMS-I; and Prashant Jadav, OMS-I) and seven from TouroCOM-Harlem (Edward Wright, OMS-II; Christopher Tanchez, OMS-I; Desiree Mayorga, OMS-I; Ruijing Liang, OMS-I; Sana Tariq, OMS-I; Kimberly Chen, OMS-I; and Justin Delgado, Master’s) participated on the trip, serving on both the Medical and Public Health Brigades.

The Medical “Brigaders” assisted the doctors at the health clinic in the San Luis de Limay community in Nicaragua by taking patient histories and vital signs. They also distributed medications, according to the doctors’ prescriptions, that they had brought with them from America. Later, on the Public Health Brigade, the student volunteers helped build cement floors and latrines for community houses in El Hatillo.

As first-year student Jackie Lee remembers:

“While helping run the primary health clinic at one of the isolated, poverty-stricken communities in Nicaragua, we encountered many patients in need of everyday over-the-counter medications that we in the United States can get easily. Most of the patients came to the clinic for the common cold and flu, minor infections, and indigestion, but they didn’t have access to – and couldn’t afford – any medications. And their living environments – no clean water, dirt floors shared by animals and pests, and lack of proper nutrition – only exacerbate their health conditions. So we brought them acetaminophen, omeprazole, antacids, antibiotics, and other medical supplies—all of which were precious resources for them.

One of the young children had a respiratory issue – a collapsed lung – but the mother didn’t realize how critical the situation was. The doctor put the baby on a ventilator and called the ambulance. It came hours later.

The closest hospital is at least an hour-long car ride away. And for patients without cars, it’s a long walk, carrying their sick children, and then waiting in line among hundreds of other patients. Because the doctors at the clinic rotate between the communities (they each have full-time jobs, so their work at the clinic is voluntary) many of the patients didn’t know when their next chance to see a doctor would be."

Jackie says she was grateful for this experience.

“I believe that as future physicians we have a duty to actively respond and reach out to those in need around us. And first, we need to make serious efforts in educating ourselves to the needs of our community by increasing our exposure and interactions with diverse people. Through this humbling experience in Nicaragua, I was strongly reminded of the mission and responsibility I have left to fulfill for my immediate communities, such as Harlem and Middletown and sharpened my goals as a student at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine. This ten-day trip has opened my eyes to the issues beyond the most obvious and largely re-shaped my goals as a student of medicine. I am proud and grateful to have been part of such an experience.”

--Jackie Lee, OMS-I

Catch a glimpse of Jackie’s video of her trip