The DMU students, alumni and faculty who recently traveled to Mali, West Africa, on a medical service trip with the nonprofit organization Medicine for Mali, faced challenging conditions and hot weather.
They treated numerous diseases, many resulting from poor public sanitation, poverty and the residents’ difficult lives. The days were long and exhausting. Still, the travelers agree the experience was well worth it.
“The cultural insights and big smiles we received made it all worthwhile,” says Phillip Tedrick, D.O.’77, an emergency physician from Augusta, ME. He was one of three DMU alumni on the trip, his first to Africa. “I was the big winner in the process.”
So were the students in DMU’s osteopathic medicine, public health and physician assistant programs. They observed many diseases not common in the United States, such as malaria and the effects of malnutrition. The heavy patient load – the team saw as many as 300 patients a day in each of the two sites where they worked – also gave them lessons in providing care with few resources.
“The differences in conditions for the mother [in childbirth] between the U.S. and Mali are almost unbelievable,” says Ella Callison, a physician assistant student. “Mothers use no analgesics, no supplemental oxygen, no breathing exercises. Complications during delivery and postpartum are met with difficulty.”
In one of the three births they observed, Callison and PA classmate Allison Paulk decided to name the baby in honor of Robert “Brent” Crandall, D.O.’96, who delivered the child. “The Malian parents also decided to use the name,” Paulk says. “The range of emotions that we experienced during the births are my most memorable experiences.”
Laura Delaney, PA-C, MPAS, an instructor and clinical coordinator for DMU’s physician assistant program, says sustainable medical outreach and public health education are critical in a nation where most people make an average of a dollar a day and where only 3 percent of the population live to age 65. It’s also a transforming experience for medical students and health care professionals.
“They learn they have what they need to treat a person – sick is universal,” says Delaney. The trip was her third to Mali. “The challenge is working with our fundamental medical knowledge and physical diagnosis skills.”
The students rose to the challenge, says Vincent Scoccia, D.O.’93, a physician in Tonopah, NV, who went to Mali as his first global health service trip. “I was so proud of all the students – they are good human beings and so willing to learn and help people,” he says. “There is hope and a bright light in our future.”
The DMU-Medicine for Mali trip will occur annually. For information on participating in or supporting it, contact Delaney at 515-271-1060 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
See more photos from the trip on our Facebook page!