MIAMI (CBSMiami)- In the coming weeks, 16 medical students from a local university will have their lives changed forever, as future doctors, students, and human beings, when they head out on a medical mission trip to the Amazon.
Like most second year medical students Chase Mallory and Natalie Abad don’t know exactly what type of medicine they want to practice, but one thing is for certain, they want to help people in need both locally and internationally.
This summer these students at Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine will take part in a global health program mission called Project Amazonas.
“This is super appealing to me because one of the major reasons why I decided to go to medical school was because of my passion for global health and caring for under-served communities,” said Abad.
“We’ve just been studying in the books, so we haven’t had a lot of patient interaction and experience, and this is going to be very eye opening for us,” Mallory said.
Project Amazonas is an American & Peruvian non-profit organization focused on humanitarian, conservation and education efforts in the upper Amazon River region since 1994.
“They’re trying to go back and visit with these Amazonian communities on a regular basis and establish that long term patient care which I think is really important for patient education advocacy,” said Mallory.
Once they arrive in Peru, the participants take a boat up the Amazon River, making several stops at villages and communities where they set up pharmacy and triage stations.
For Gabriela Figueroa and Jonathan Jhon, now third year FIU medical students, the trip was invaluable.
“It showed me what it means to be a physician like down to its core,” said Jhon.
“As future leaders in the community, we are expected to be able to relate to a lot of people and some of us haven’t seen further than our backyards,” said Figueroa. “It’s really nice for medical students to travel internationally so that we can, in our future, practice open what we are used to and be able to relate to more people who become our patients.”
The people they treat suffer from common illnesses including fungal and urinary tract infections and dehydration.
But many lack preventative care and information.
“There’s a steep learning curve that we have to go through with them. We don’t want to go there and just give them a bunch of medicine and leave. We want to go there, teach them, make sure they can take care of themselves,” said Jhon.
Jhon and Figueroa work together to help prepare those headed on the next expedition. Providing all the assistance they need, from getting finances, to understanding the cultural and language barriers and a lot of the logistics about the trip itself, like the ‘dos and don’ts.’
Most importantly, the students are encouraged to bring an open mind and be prepared to make the most of this experience both as physicians and human beings.
“We don’t have a lot of the resources at our fingertips that we might have in the United States healthcare system, so thinking on your toes, and being more practical in your care, I think is something that is going to be interesting to learn,” Mallory said. It opens your eyes to a completely different perspective when going on trips like this, whether it is medically related or not. Just understanding how other people view the world, what their baseline normal is, how they view society or healthcare.”
“It’s kind of easy to just forget your end goal, as to why we even chose medicine in the first place, when we’re constantly under stress or studying for an exam and not getting that much sleep,” Abad said.
For more information on Project Amazonas, visit their website.
Abad, Mallory and the other 14 students on this mission have set up a GoFundMe account to offset the costs of their mission. You can read more by clicking here.