by Brad Crear, PA Student
When asked why I wanted to do a clinical rotation for HHI, I thought to myself, “what kind of a question is that?” Who wouldn’t want to do a rotation on a tropical island where patients are very sick and gravely underserved? Not only do I get the opportunity to see and treat some illnesses and injuries that I may never see in the United States, but I get to do it in one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. As my time in the DR has gone on however, I have realized many more reasons why this rotation is a different, unique educational experience.
The people of Montellano and the surrounding communities have taught me more than I ever expected about life and caring for patients. They are some of the most selfless, hospitable people I have ever met. Since my first day, they treated me as if I was a part of their family for years. They do not judge anyone for anything. As soon as a guest walks in the door, the first available seat is offered up. They constantly offer to cook lunch or dinner or coffee, even if they may need to give up their own meal in order to please the guest. This selflessness contributes to their unparalleled sense of community. Everyone looks out for one another and they all look out for their guests.
The community health workers are all one-of-a-kind and completely dedicated to improving the health of the patients in their community. Many of them aspire to be doctors or nurses and quite frankly, any healthcare system would greatly benefit from having care providers as dedicated and passionate as them. Although they have not been to medical or nursing school, they are able to connect with their patients so well because it is clear how much they care.
One of the sayings you hear at HHI is “friends first, patients second” and the community health workers exemplify this. They are friends with all of their patients which leads to a better connection and therefore better compliance with medical care. In addition, because the community health workers live among their patients, they are able to see the big picture. They know how family, religion, and other cultural beliefs will influence the patients’ decisions and compliance, medically. This is a concept that is not commonly dealt with in the United States health care system. The patient is often viewed as simply a patient rather than a human being with unique faith, beliefs, and social practices. The concepts of selflessness, community, and seeing the big picture are concepts that I have learned in the Dominican Republic that I hope to apply not only to my medical career, but my life in general.