PA Students, Alumni, and Faculty Provide Medical Care in Mission Trip to Honduras

Academics,

Over 500 people in Honduras have received medical care that would otherwise have been unavailable, thanks to the Lake Erie College community.  In December 2018, 11 Lake Erie College students, alumni, and faculty went on a medical mission trip to serve El Espinito, Honduras and surrounding cities.  This was made possible through Global Brigades, an international nonprofit organization which has empowered multiple villages in developing nations for over 15 years.

Many of the Honduran villagers have been out of their hypertension and diabetic medications for years.  Some had never received dental or vision care. It was not unusual for entire families to walk for hours to receive care.

The medical mission was very successful.  Over 500 people received medical care, including prescription medicine and cervical cancer screenings.  Hundreds received dental screenings and extractions. Hundreds also received vision screening exams and prescriptive glasses.  The Brigade also installed three eco-friendly stoves which decrease the production of soot, improving respiratory health for families.  All individuals received gift bags of hygiene products and education on preventative health.

Led by physician assistant student Candice Ramus (Class of 2019), the planning took over a year.  “Travelling abroad to offer medical relief has been a goal of mine for many years. PA school provided a great opportunity for me to travel with a passionate group of individuals who were motivated to positively impact the lives of those in need.” Candice was instrumental in choosing the organization, organizing the supplies, recruiting individuals, and travel planning. “The medical mission trip exceeded my expectations and goals. I went to Honduras to have an impact on a medically underserved area and I feel confident that I accomplished that goal.”

The individuals who went on the medical mission include PA Professor Sean Kramer, PA Class of 2017 alumni Joanna DeVries, current PA Class of 2019 students Jess Flowers, Kaitlin Gibson, Courtney Ownby, Candice Ramus, Abbey Skorupski, current PA Class of 2020 students Zachary Gibbemeyer, Rebecca Jaboni, Tara Tabbaa, and Lake Erie College undergraduate student Melissa Mochan.  These individuals helped raise over $25,000 toward travel and medical supplies. In addition, they obtained and shipped thousands of hygiene supplies such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, soap, and shampoo. Many of the generous donations were obtained by local supporters which include NDS Orthodontics (Madison, OH), William D Nelson DDS (Concord, OH), Dr. Kendra Mahaffey (Concord, OH), Erie Optical (Mentor, OH), Sleep Inn (Johnstown, PA), and Servello Orthodontics (Ebensburg, PA).  In addition, the effort was supported by an oral health education grant through the NCCPA Health Foundation obtained by Professor Sean Kramer and Steven Hunter, which helped pay for many dental supplies, models, and its cost for transportation.

While the medical mission made a difference for hundreds of people in Honduras, it also had a significant impact to those participating.  Professor Kramer said, “The people in Honduras did not have access to medical care and many other necessities we take for granted. Despite these challenges, I have never felt as welcomed in a community.”  Seeing his students provide service, “their passion and commitment was humbling. I am proud of the leadership they have shown and will bring to our communities.”

The medical mission trip did not require individuals to have healthcare experience. Lake Erie College undergraduate student Melissa Mochan said, “For the trip prior medical experience wasn’t necessary. I was a little nervous going with PA’s and PA students as I am new to learning in the medical field. The Lake Erie PA students were eager to teach and explain things to me.” Melissa felt connected to the people in Honduras.  “The patients were overjoyed with emotion to be able to receive medical care, and I was thrilled to be able to do anything I could to help them. The love that filled each room was limitless.”

Didactic PA student Zachary Gibbemeyer had the chance to go on a previous Global Brigade medical mission trip as an undergraduate and decided to come as a PA student.  “Serving others has always been a core factor in my life, one that was instilled in me at a very young age. These trips help to refocus me on why I even began my pursuit in medicine in the first place.”  He said the experience was a little different as a PA student. “For this trip in particular, I was able to understand certain medical conditions and their corresponding treatment plans in a more professional way.  I was able to attend this trip with fellow LEC PA students who share the same love for service that I do.”

Clinical PA student Abbey Skorupski reflected about her favorite moment of the trip.  “The joy and awe I witnessed as our patients put on glasses for the first time in their lives was the most rewarding experience I have ever been a part of.”  Since she had such an impactful experience, this is something she would consider coming back to do again. “I would love to return as an alumna in the future and participate in direct patient care. While I felt that I had an important role as a PA student, I look forward to the opportunity to directly treat our community members as a licensed PA.”

Although alumni Joanna DeVries, PA-C is currently practicing as an urgent care physician assistant, she found time to step away and help others.  “I always had a heart for missions work,” she explained. “I genuinely love helping people and improving others’ lives, so this trip to Honduras was exactly what I feel passionate about doing!”

Global Brigades and the community of El Espinito, Honduras were impressed with Lake Erie College’s professionalism and compassion for others. The feedback from the students who went on the medical mission was equally positive. There is significant interest in continuing the medical mission annually.  Alumni, faculty, staff, graduate students and undergraduate students are welcome to join. No medical experience is necessary. All you need is the desire to make a difference. Please contact Professor Sean Kramer, skramer@lec.edu if interested.

PA Program Mission Trip 2019 - Honduras

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