By Alexandra Jacobs
California School of Podiatric Medicine
Class of 2021
This year, the California School of Podiatric Medicine held its annual medical mission in the vibrant community of San Ysidro, California. The student-led mission was held over a span of three days, from March 15th to 17th and was located at a local community center known as the “Centro Romero”. Our diverse team consisted of first, second, third, and fourth-year Podiatric Medical students as well as resident and attending Podiatric Physicians. We also had the great privilege of working alongside Spanish translators, Family Nurse Practitioners, and FNP students to reach our common goal of treating the people of San Ysidro. Every year that the mission is held, it is our goal to reach out to as many individuals in need of basic health care, especially pertaining to the lower extremities, that are otherwise unable to access or afford it. The three days we spent there composed of setting-up, advertising the clinic, gathering and organizing materials, assessing and treating patients, and debriefing as a team to discuss our efforts and goals. As a first-year student-leader, my purpose was to learn as much as possible by observing and doing, help other experienced students in their tasks, and also translate for others. All for the first time, I had the opportunity to trim nails and keratomas, learn how to create an appropriate orthotic for patients, present patients to an attending physician, perform a patient work-up, and observe many different kinds of pathologies in patients with conditions ranging from Diabetes Mellitus, Plantar Fasciitis, to Peripheral Arterial Disease.
I had seen how underserved and humble the community was
My experience as a first-year student was humbling and fulfilling, as I was able to learn so many skills for the first time and treat patients with the help of the team. You do not typically learn these skills until you reach your second year, so having that opportunity was especially meaningful for me. When I initially heard about the San Ysidro mission trip, I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of it. Since I was a child, I had traveled to the area with my mother who was Mexican-born and raised to visit my close aunt who lived there. Over the years, I had seen how underserved and humble the community was, and I desired to help knowing one day I was going to be a physician. Just before my first year at CSPM, my aunt grew very ill and unfortunately passed away due to lack of care and proper medical equipment. I knew at this point, that this was a very special mission for me and a community I held dear to my heart. I decided I wanted to help those that may succumb to the same situation and did not want this to happen to somebody’s loved one purely due to lack of prevention and basic medical attention.
The most memorable moment at the mission for me was a conversation I had with a particular patient. She was one of the first patients I saw, and I was nervous knowing that this would be the first time I had to not only work up a patient but also do the entire process in Spanish. Even though I grew up speaking Spanish, this was the first time I had ever had to utilize it in a way to help someone receive medical treatment and make sure they felt safe and understood. Before my work-up, I told her that I was a student who would do my absolute best to communicate with her and that I would like her to let me know at any time if she did not understand something. She was very patient with me and I am sure she could feel my nervousness. After assessing her, I had a moment alone to sit with her. She leaned over to me and started to tell me that she had been living in her car and that she appreciated that I was patient and made sure she was comfortable. In Spanish, she told me to stay determined and that I was going to be a great doctor one day, because of how I made her feel. This was the greatest reward because, in spite of my self-doubt, I was able to make her feel listened to and comforted which reminded me of why I wanted to be a physician in the first place.
She told me to stay determined and that I was going to be a great doctor one day
This experience is something I will never forget and one of the many reasons why I recommend being a part of this mission. For anyone who is eager to learn, serve, and be reminded of why studying medicine is beautiful, this mission is definitely something you would want to partake in. I look forward to leading and being a part of future teams so we may continue to use our knowledge as Podiatric Medical Students to serve others.
Images donated by CSPM Medical Mission, on behalf of Samuel Merritt University.
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