Des Moines University group heads to Belize for medical outreach

June 27, 2006 —

(Des Moines, IA) – Des Moines University faculty and ten students will head to Belize on July 1 on a medical service trip. They will stay in Dangriga, a town on the southern coast of the country, until July 9. Each morning the team of 17 will divide into three groups, one surgical team to work in the Dangriga hospital and three primary care teams to serve outlying villages.
“Our primary goal is to provide much needed medical care to the rural population of Belize,” explained Tommie Albright, second-year D.O. student. “Working in a third world country gives a unique perspective; it’s healthcare in a very pure form. They need medical care and we’re there for them, no paperwork or red tape. They are people who need help.”
Albright is spearheading the trip that has been coordinated through Peacework (www.peacework.org). Albright found three of the trip’s clinicians through the International Medical Volunteer Association database. The rest are from Des Moines University (DMU), including Dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine Kendall Reed, D.O., and Yogesh Shah, M.D., associate dean for clinical global affairs at DMU.
Dr. Shah said, “About 20 percent of North American medical students go overseas during their studies — in some schools this number exceeds 30 percent — with large class enrollments in introductory global health courses. At DMU, we are seeing this trend also.”
The students, with the help of Dr. Reed and DMU President Terry Branstad, raised nearly $14,000 for this trip to cover flights and expenses. Many of the donations came from DMU faculty, staff and local doctors through the “Sponsor a Student” program. Albright said a physician in Daytona Beach asked a day’s worth of patients to donate the cost of their procedure toward this trip instead of accepting payment.
Albright said, “We have so many people to thank; large donations were also given by the Iowa Medical Society, Iowa Osteopathic Medical Association and local doctors.”
She also said donors contributed to the medical supplies they will take. Half of the supplies came from F. R. Fritz Nordengren with the Mercy School of Emergency Medical Services and Dr. Stephen Ellestad of Altoona provided much of the rest. The group also received a grant from MAP International for nearly $13,000 worth of medication.
Dr. Shah also foresees a repeat of this trip or similar trips. He explained, “The fact is, no matter where we live, our well-being depends on how health issues are managed around the world. Any infectious disease is only a plane ride away.”


Courtney Tompkins has been part of the DMU marketing team since Nov. 2005 and loves promoting a school she believes in so thoroughly. Proud daughter and patient of DMU alumni, Courtney knows, first-hand, that Des Moines University is doing a world of good. A fan of all outdoor festivals, fruity drinks and nearly all edibles, she has a hard time narrowing down her list of favorite places to go and things to do but lists the Iowa State Fair as an all-time fave. She loves her 8-minute commute to DMU from Urbandale, a suburb of Des Moines. She and husband Tyler are owned by three large dogs, Tonka, Tucker and Tank.

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