Never having traveled abroad, I did not know what to expect on my Medical Service Trip to the Dominican Republic as a Quinnipiac Physician’s Assistant (PA) student. As I walked out of the airport I saw a safari-like truck awaiting our arrival – not realizing this would be our mode of transportation for the week- I was pumped. We left the airport for our hotel and home-base for the week, and my thoughts and anticipation of the trip became a reality. After a day of orientation and team bonding we were set to depart at 8:30am sharp every morning for the next four days of field clinics.
This opportunity opened my eyes to cultural barriers we will face as healthcare providers. The medical experience I gained will be beneficial in my development as a PA. I never expected to connect on a deeper level with the culture of the Dominican Republic and the diverse people of each community. The sense of community and unity in each village caught my attention – neighbors sharing dinner, working hard to make the best out of what they had. It was sad to think about surviving in these living conditions on a daily basis, but I realized everyone makes the best of it. To me, it seemed that they thrive on tradition and simple living, sharing with each other, and working hard for a common goal. The sense of community supersedes anything I have ever seen in the United States.
I met a Haitian Community Health Worker that I really enjoyed getting to know. He opened my eyes to the daily struggles, cultural differences and how people had fun in the DR. I really respected his work ethic in the field clinic and how he is a role model in his community. It was interesting to hear about his participation on a committee to bring clean water to his community and how he also will be teaching people how to read and write in his town. We really connected and opened up to each other. It was sad to hear the lack of opportunity for him to go to college because he and his family can’t afford the tuition. We would never think about that in the U.S. because there are colleges that fit everyone’s budget, but for my Community Health Worker friend, all of his diligence and involvement in his community will probably never advance him to a college degree. I will never forget our friendship and the inspiration he instilled in me for helping others who are financially less fortunate.
This medical service trip taught me so much more than the medical knowledge I utilized and gained as a PA student. It opened my eyes to poverty, discrimination, and a culture so unique from New England. As medical providers we have to take into account the patient’s lifestyle and background, not just what they present with in signs and symptoms. This experience ingrained a sense of passion in me for Global Health and I hope to continue going on medical service trips when I become a PA. It has inspired me to be a better student, healthcare provider, and person, and to appreciate everything I have and everyone I have in my life. The memories of everyone who helped make this week possible will last a lifetime. Thank you to all who helped us reach our fundraising goal of $4,500 and for your support throughout the process.