I (Olivia) went to Jalapa, Nicaragua on August 13th-21st with Christian Medical Dental Association's Global Health Outreach program. This trip could not have come at a better time: an accidental break in school due to some course scheduling issues and changes in summer plans... but also what I learned from this trip was so timely as well! Here's a brief recap and explanation of some of the things my team did did, and some of the things I learned:
Where did we go? - we traveled 8 hours north of Managua to get to Jalapa, a small town in the mountains near the Honduran border.
Who went on this trip? - we had a family physician (my mom!), an internist, a pediatrician, a pediatric resident, a PA professor, and a nicaraguan doctor + many PA students, a PT student, several undergraduate students studying all different things, RNs, nursing students, pharmacy students, and several non-medical people! We also had an army of phenomenal translators! :)
What did we do? - each day, we ran a clinic, but we also ran much more than a clinic! Patients would come from Jalapa or surrounding areas and register. They would go to a community health session to learn about preventive health measures (i.e. good hygiene practices), and then a session to learn about Christianity and the gospel. Next, patients would go through triage, and then proceed to the clinic to meet with the physician best suited for their age/chief complaint. We had the opportunity to take histories, do physical exams, make assessments and plans, and pray with the patient if they desired to. In addition to medical services, we had our own pharmacy on site, physical therapy, glasses for correcting vision, and a laboratory that could run certain tests. While adults were doing medical things, we had a full time children's program as well! Sometimes, patients weren't able to get to the clinic, so our teams would be assigned to do home visits (pictured below) - I brought my violin along to play music for the patients.
So, what did I gain from this trip?
There are so many things I could write about, and it would be impossible for me to put it all on this blog. You should definitely ask me about it in person, or email me with more specific questions! Especially if you want to know how GHO/CMDA sets up these trips so that the short term mission trip is not more harmful than helpful. Or if you want to know how you can support the long term workers there! Or if you want to help donate to buy a generator and/or compressor (the power went out several times while we were there and we relied on a generator!) But for now, I will write a little bit about what I've learned from this trip.
I am reminded of how God is at work everywhere - too often, medical school is a bubble. Whether it's a bubble from what's going on in the country, to what's going on with your friends/family because your head is stuck in a book (or I guess staring at the computer screen in today's day and age), it's easy to forget that world continues to turn each day and there are so many people living on this planet. I loved meeting the Nicaraguan people, hearing their life stories, and hearing how passionate and sincere they are about their faith. I also loved hearing from other people that were struggling with their faith, that they sometimes went to church but weren't really sure if they could say they had a personal relationship with Jesus- I loved it because it reminded me that they are just like us! They are so similar to the people in my own city here in the states. I am immensely thankful that there is a network of pastors in Jalapa that are following up with new believers in Christ, as well as those that want to reconnect and rekindle their faith! There is so much beyond my commute to the hospital/school and back, and I am grateful for the chance to be reminded of that this past week.
I am re-affirmed in my calling to pursue Family Medicine - I noticed that I loved being able to take care of kids, adults, pregnant ladies - anyone and everyone! No one was too young or too old. We could see families together at the same time instead of sending the kid to one doctor and then parent going to another. As I head into applying for residency, I am thankful that God used this trip to remind me of why I'm so passionate about this field of medicine! I also need to consider if I want to truly work on my Spanish and work with Spanish speaking populations down the road...
I have some amazing new friends - A one week trip can be difficult - by the end, you finally feel like you know everyone, and then it's time to say goodbye. I met some fantastic people on this trip, and it was so refreshing to see people passionate not only about physical health, but about spiritual health. I loved working in the clinic with these friends, playing my violin with the worship team, eating dinner with these teammates every day, sharing at night how God had been at work, hearing their rich testimonies of grace (which often made me cry!), staying up late at night trying to connect to the wifi, exploring Grenada on our last day and zip-lining through the canopy! We might now be far apart and it's possible that in this lifetime some of us won't meet again, but I take comfort in the fact that we're all in God's family for all of eternity.
It's crazy to think that the next time I go on a medical missions trip, I might actually be a doctor.
There are so many things that are scheduled to happen this year and so many potential changes. Residency applications, interviewing, ranking - all of that is going to happen very soon. Kyle and I don't know what's next, but wherever God leads, we hope to be faithful to the call to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and mind and to love our neighbors as ourself.
Okay, end of recap! Thank you to everyone who supported me in prayer or financially on this trip! It meant so much to me knowing that there were so many of you praying for this trip and reading the updates while we were there!
Olivia (& Kyle)