The Benefits of Medical Trips Abroad
- Jan 18, 2017
For three years I have been fortunate enough to find a second home in San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic. I first travelled there during my Sophomore year on a medical service trip that was set up through my preprofessional organization, Alpha Epsilon Delta, and returned the following two years as the leader of the trip. While in the DR, our group partnered with local Dominican doctors, nurses, and translators to set up medical clinics and pharmacies in remote villages where people would otherwise have no access to healthcare.
Being in the Dominican Republic and seeing the overwhelming poverty truly opens yours eyes to a lifestyle that we don't understand as Americans; while they might not have the latest toys or even shoes on their feet, they are happy with the life they lead. I have come home each year after the trip filled with a sense of immense humility and awe that a population with so little can have so much in their heart to give. With this said, I highly encourage anyone who is thinking of entering the medical field to embark on trip of a similar nature. It was while on my first trip to the DR that I finally realized that becoming a physician was the path that I was meant to lead; I had previously known that I wanted to be somehow involved in healthcare but I wasn't sure what role I wanted to play. Seeing the different roles that providers played in the Dominican medical clinics was a great way for me to weigh my options and sort through the different professions.
Additionally, I was a student who had very little knowledge of life outside the United States. Prior to this trip, the only times I had left this country was occasional trips to Canada. Travelling to the Dominican Republic was without a doubt a culture shock, but as I was packing up to leave I found that I had felt more comfortable in a country where nobody speaks my language than I ever had at home in the US.
Medical schools are always looking to see that applicants have cultural competencies and are prepared to treat people from all walks of life. You don't get to pick who your patients will be but you can prepare yourself to handle unknown cultures. Medical trips abroad have a great way of teaching you to step outside you comfort zone to strive to understand others.