Manchester University
Oak Leaves

March 4, 2016

REAL-WORLD EXPERIENCE Students get the opportunity to develop their skills during a medical practicum abroad. Photo courtesy of Emily Clark.

Students Spend January Session in Nicaraguan Clinics

Stratton Smith

From traveling through 30 foot-long, dug-out canoes made from trees, to having local chickens named after students, the Nicaragua January Session trip was full of adventure, great memories and life-changing moments.

Taking his 19th medical practicum trip to Nicaragua, Dr. Jeffrey Osborne and 16 Manchester students of various majors made their way to several clinics throughout the third-world nation. In addition to Osborne and the students, there were six physicians, two pharmacists, two nurses, a dentist, a veterinarian, a lab coordinator and over two thousand pounds of medical equipment.

The group focused on giving medical assistance to underserved people in Nicaragua, a less-developed country. “We did well health-wise (for the community), built relationships and showed we cared for others,” Osborne said, “but I think the important thing to realize is that we’re not just going to help others. In the process of helping others, we realize that we need help -- not because we lack antibiotics or have tooth aches, but in other ways such as perspective on life.”

“I learned to appreciate the small and simple things,” said senior biology-chemistry major Tiffany Clark. “Seeing the children happy and playing when they had no shoes was different than kids nowadays complaining about not having a cell phone. The kids in the village we went to were lucky to have clean water and food. Some drank water straight from the Rio Bocay and some got water from the mountains.”

Amanda Basham, a senior biology major was also shocked at the spirits of the Nicaraguan people. “It was so humbling to see how happy the people were with literally nothing. To play baseball, they had a broken broomstick and threw an empty pill bottle to hit . . . and they were having the time of their lives.”

The students worked inside the clinics and gained real medical experience working with real people. “Some students each day were placed in intake, which is where the patients (around 200) would get their temperature, blood pressure, height and weight taken,” Clark said. “The students would then direct them to the necessary line based off their complaints.”

Basham added, “From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. we were in the clinic. We rotated between several types of physicians such as: family, medicine, OB/GYN, pediatrician, dentist, lab testing and pharmacy.”

Osborne was more than satisfied with the work efforts of his students. “I’ve never had a group that just got stuff done,” Osborne said. “It was easy to work with them. “This is a very physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually demanding trip and it’s really hard. Some of the stuff they had to do was not fun, but I did not hear a complaint the entire trip.”

There were even some funny mishaps along the way. “Towards the end of the trip in the lab we ran out of urine sample cups and were forced to improvise,” Clark said. “So another student and I were forced to use zip-lock bags as an alternative.”

Even Basham had several laughs throughout the trip. “The family we stayed with at Wina was amazing,” she said. “I have a chicken named after me now (in their village) and they promised me it would not be lunch.”

Throughout the entirety of this trip, Osborne stated that the group felt “safe and taken care of.” They lived in the homes of the Nicaraguan people and saw what life was like for them. “We had about 56 people eating every meal together (30 from the United States),” Osborne said. “We all even slept in hammocks and bathed in the rivers.” Clark added, “Hammocks were quite comfortable to sleep in, but I missed a flushing toilet more than anything.”

At the end of every medical practicum trip that Osborne leads, there is a closing ceremony to hear about the students’ experiences and share stories with one another. “To hear the students go around and tell their stories was a really powerful experience,” Osborne said.

Osborne, leading his eighth group, proclaimed that every trip is different, but there was a factor that made each trip the same: “I get more out of it than I give.” Osborne was not alone in those regards. “I realized how much one person can make a difference,” Basham said. “Simply being there, living with them, suffering alongside them, can bring so much hope to people. Life could be so much harder, so it is best not to complain about what you have, because we have so much more than anyone else does.”