Physician assistant students put their knowledge to use in the Dominican Republic

By Kimberly Tschetter
Physician assistant graduate student

What a week to remember!

Six first-year students from the Quinnipiac Physician Assistant Program spent seven days in the Dominican Republic on a medical service trip.

We teamed up with a fantastic non-profit organization called Health Horizons International.

Their mission is to provide quality primary healthcare to underserved patients of the Dominican Republic and to build local capacity for achieving improved community health.

This is achieved through partnering international medical service trips with community-based health initiatives and working to promote well-being and access to healthcare.

In the months leading up to the trip, our team spent many hours planning and fund raising.

Thanks to our amazing faculty and supportive classmates, we were able to exceed our fund raising goal with bake sales, a car wash, a pasta feed and letter-writing to friends and family.

The six of us met weekly to discuss cultural and language differences.  Our team was lucky to have two fluent Spanish speakers.  It was enjoyable learning about the foods, history and traditions of the DR, knowing that we would be heading there in January.

We were also able to use the medical and clinical skills that we attained through the first two semesters of the physician assistant program.  All of the team members had a satisfying experience putting our knowledge to use in the field.  From taking blood pressures and blood glucose levels to taking a medical history from the patient, the past few month of studying paid off!

After only a three-hour flight from New York, we arrived in the beautiful Dominican Republic.

We spent a day learning how to run the clinics, then headed out into the communities to set up clinics in churches and community buildings.  Most were small, one-room shacks with tin roofs, no air conditioning and adorable children crawling through the windows.  Beds sheets were strung up as makeshift exam rooms.  We made a check-in area, triage space and a small pharmacy.

We also had a lab with blood glucose tests, urinalysis and pregnancy tests. We also had the opportunity to work with five family practice doctors from Connecticut who went along on the trip.  In the exam rooms, we asked patients questions through interpreters, conducted the physical exam and made a healthcare plan for each patient.  We saw over 400 patients during the trip.

The main chronic care conditions were high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma and epilepsy.  Health Horizons International serves communities in the northern part of the DR.  A few years ago, the sugar refinery shut down suddenly.

This has led to very high unemployment in the area.  Many patients suffer from parasites, which can cause dangerous diarrhea. The lack of clean drinking water and sanitary latrines are big challenges and lead to many infections.  The people we saw were incredibly grateful for the medical care they received.

This trip was such a positive experience.

We look forward to returning to the DR one day as physician assistants.

Categories: School of Health Sciences

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