In December of last year, 16 upper-level students in Wagner’s physician assistant program took a medical mission trip to Belize, a small Caribbean country nestled between Mexico and Guatemala.
During three days of clinical work in Belize City and two outlying villages, they saw about 500 patients dealing with ailments ranging from untreated diabetes and high blood pressure to intestinal parasites, scabies, and dengue fever.
For the students, the hard work and long hot days were fascinating. “Every night,” says PA program director Nora Lowy, “I was in awe of the transformation that occurred in the students. They wanted to see all of the patients who were waiting, and not stop at the end of the day. Their faces were literally glowing.”
Although a local doctor was available for consultation when needed, the students were making real clinical decisions. For example: While educating patients about diabetes and testing blood glucose, says Rick Leung ’14 M’15, “We ended up finding a woman with a blood glucose of 310 who was then referred to the clinic. It was exciting to know we were able to make a positive impact.”
The trip also involved learning about a different culture and traditions. The students not only received lessons about the local practice of complementary medicine, but also heard from patients about the homemade herbal remedies they took to treat health problems like hypertension or asthma, says Nicole D’Angelo ’14 M’15.
“I’m dying to go back,” she adds. “I didn’t want to leave.”