KGI PPC Students Travel to Honduras to Volunteer in Areas of Rural Poverty
Eleven students in KGI's Post-baccalaureate Premedical Certificate (PPC) program, along with program founder Dr. Ian Phillips and his wife, pediatrician Dr. Blanca Aguiar, are heading to Honduras in May. The group will volunteer in medical clinics under the Global Brigades banner. Global Brigades is the world's largest student-led global health and sustainable development organization. It focuses its work on countries where families often survive on less than $2 per day and "where medical and economic needs are severely neglected and resources for basic services are low." The Medical Brigades arm specifically develops sustainable health initiatives and provides relief where there is limited access to health care.
"The students will experience rural medicine in a foreign country. They will see firsthand tropical diseases and be exposed to low-cost medical practice," Phillips says. "They will work together in teams with doctors, dentists and other pre-medical students from Johns Hopkins University. It will be an unforgettable experience for all of us-students and faculty."
With 83 percent of Hondurans lacking health insurance-and 30 percent without access to health care altogether-the students' work will help address simple ailments that could turn into more serious problems. Student organizers Nancy Garcia and Harshal Lal say the medical mission-KGI's first-will ultimately help to make them more effective physicians and healthcare practitioners.
"The experience and everything we learn in Honduras about the community, the conditions, and diseases they face will help me keep in mind that patients must be seen holistically and all factors affecting their overall health must be taken into account," says Garcia, who is graduating from KGI in May and is interested in global medicine.
Students in the clinic will provide general health screenings, gynecological, dental and eye exams. The students will also dispense medications and deliver health information workshops that provide patients with information on preventing common diseases, including providing information to children on oral hygiene.
The May trip is Lal's second to Honduras. Lal says he sees the trip as a precursor to his career in health care and hopes to one day work with an international aid organization like Doctors Without Borders.
"Last year I volunteered in Honduras with Public Heath Brigades, where our goal was to help build sanitary water storage basins, concrete floors, and eco-stoves to help the families in the rural community live healthier more hygienic lives," he explains. "This year, I aim to gain clinical experience and see firsthand what medical care is like in a foreign country."
According to Garcia, the group's biggest challenge is gathering the long list of medications and supplies needed. The team is actively seeking donations from the community through financial contributions and product donations, including vitamins, analgesics and medical supplies.
Joon Kim, administrative director for KGI's PPC program, says the Global Brigades trip is a strong fit for the program's mission and culture. KGI's pre-med program is not about placement into medical school, he says, it's about providing opportunities for students to further develop their potential for success in medical school and beyond. This trip could be the first of many."
"We all know getting into medical school takes more than just academics," Kim says. "It's about combining the love for learning with the passion to make a difference in people's health. I am thrilled to witness their altruism take them 3,000 miles away to help communities in need in Honduras."