MU
Oak Leaves

March 16, 2018

97

Senior Alex Figueroa and sophomore Marie Bougher take a break from patient care with the rest of the Medical Practicum group.

Photo by William Southern


Students Provide Health Care during Medical Practicum Trip


Kaity Collins 

The 2018 January term was full of snow and freezing temperatures, but not all students had to endure the winter experience. The Natural and Health Sciences 310 class spent their January session in Nicaragua, providing health care and medical attention to several Nicaragua citizens.

The trip started Jan. 4 with class and packing and then the students boarded a plane on Jan. 5, arriving in Nicaragua and spending their first day in Managua. They spent 22 days in Nicaragua and returned Jan 25 with first-hand experience on what it was like to provide medical support to those in a third-world country. “It’s an opportunity to help the underprivileged,” senior Alexis Figueroa said. “It opened my eyes.”

The two flights took 5 hours overall, and after staying in the capitol for a day, there was a 12 hour bus ride. The next day there was a 7 hour canoe ride. “It was an intense trip,” junior Rebecca Mundroff said. “And it’s hard to explain what it was like.”

Figueroa agreed. “It’s an adventure,” he said. “You get to explore the world and it gets you out of your comfort zone.”

Twenty MU students went on the trip taking up roles such as physicians, physician assistants, dentists, pharmacists and translators. There were two MU translators that handled the English to Spanish translations while 11 translators from Nicaragua were in charge of the Spanish to Mayagna (native language) translations. There was even one Nicaraguan veterinarian that assisted the team. “We got to assist the professionals, like with checking blood pressure, for instance,” junior Alexa Callaway said. “We get a two-fold experience; it’s more hands on.”

All the students and faculty that went were glad to have the chance to participate in such a project. “In this short-term experience in global health, we work hard to accompany local health care workers in providing health care to these underserved populations,” said Dr. Jeffrey Osborne, associate professor of chemistry. “But I think the most important outcome is how the experience changes the students, the providers, me and all the participants of the trip.”

Figueroa said: “One thing to remember would be the people. It’s such a tight-knit community.” Callaway agreed that helping people was the best part.  “As a professional, the patient comes first. People are people, and never want to forget that,” she said.

For others, the experience was a learning experience. “I felt very comfortable down there in an uncomfortable situation,” Mundroff said. “It’s one of the things you learn down there.”

Sophomore Marie Bougher added: “It was redefining. A lot of the students hadn’t really seen any of that stuff before.”

The trip to Nicaragua is open to students of any major and is organized every year, with the 2018 trip being number 34 so far. The next trip will be January 2019 with all participants likely returning to Alto Wangki-Bocay, Nicaragua. The cost for students is $2,350 and they must complete an application form that needs to be sent to Professor Osborne by Thursday, March 30, 2018, in order to qualify for the trip. For more information, visit www.medicalpracticum.org.

Multiple students from the trip recommend it to others. “I would absolutely go on this trip again,” Callaway said. “Especially as a professional.”

Mundroff agreed. “I highly recommend the trip to anyone who wants to work in the medical field or travel to a Third-World country,” she said. “You get really immersed in the culture there very quick.”

Figueroa added: “I feel most people who go feel the need to go back as a medical provider. It allows students to see life from a different perspective.”

Some of the students explained their experiences as a participant in the medical practicum. “I got to translate for a day,” Callaway recalled. “I was really cool for me; I learned what I can do.”

Bougher treasured the experience overall. “Anyone who is even a little bit interested should consider going,” she explained. “You won’t regret it.”