Q1: What got you interested in medical missions?
A medical mission is one thing that drew me to podiatry school initially. I would see these videos and read blogs about how impactful these missions can be for patients, villages, and the practitioner. I wanted to share in that experience. So, at the first opportunity I had, I jumped at the chance to go to the Dominican Republic with Jose’s Hands. Needless to say, I immediately understood what all the hype was about.
Q2: What were your roles?
On the first medical mission, I was a medical volunteer. The second medical mission with Jose’s Hands, I was a team leader. On my third medical mission with a different organization, I was the podiatry ambassador.
Q3: What were the most memorable patients to you?
One of the first patients that meant the most to me was during my first medical mission. We were in such an impoverished area that many patients were not even able to get transportation to the clinic. The pastor of the area visited them regularly for religious ceremonies and prayer; he was the person who brought the patient to our attention.
There was an older man and elderly woman who were neighbors. Our medical team knew we needed to at least give them a physical exam. Once they came back, the elderly woman had an extremely high blood pressure of 198/110. The gentleman had ulcers and nails that caused him to be unable to walk. So, as a podiatric student, myself and 2 other members of the medical team were taken by dirt bike to these homes. I took my podiatry tools and the other medical professionals took medications for the woman. I treated the gentleman for his foot issues, while the woman was given a large supply of blood pressure medications and vitamins. Both were so grateful that they asked us to stay and visit for a bit. They made us fresh lemonade from a tree nearby and even got us to sing folk songs. The woman was wheelchair bound, but so excited to tell us as many stories about her life as she could. I think it was truly a meaningful experience for everyone involved.
Q4: What was a typical day for you during a mission?
We stayed at a local hotel within distance of the medical mission site. We would wake up early in the morning and have a somewhat quick breakfast to get ready for the day. We would pray for a safe journey, and then drive 30 minutes to an hour to our location. We usually set up clinics in a church, but sometimes it would be a school or other building that was large enough for us to set up several medical stations. We would set up and begin registration, seeing patients, and filling medications. We would typically have a quick lunch, and see patients until it was late. Once all the patients were seen (or as many as we could see), we went back to the hotel, had dinner, showered, and went to bed. The medical mission was not all work, we usually had a day of fun as well. Usually, we had one day on the trip that was a fun day so we could explore the local culture and beach areas.
Q5: What would you recommend to someone interested in medical missions?
I would say if you ever have the opportunity,
If you’re looking for the opportunity, reach out to any organization you can. All of the organizations I’ve known are ecstatic to have volunteers, especially if it’s a profession they don’t have any contacts in. Podiatry is a needed specialty throughout the world, and our knowledge can apply to many areas. There is always a way to help and care for people in need, so no one is too inexperienced or has too little knowledge to help others.