Doing good in El Salvador over spring break

by Barb Boose, DMU Magazine editor

jonathan in 08Last summer, Jonathan Thompson, a podiatric medical student at DMU, spent a steamy week in El Salvador, seeing 50 to 70 patients a day. He was one of 14 DMU students on a medical service trip organized by the DMU Global Health Program and the Comandos de Salvamento, a Red Cross-like group that provides medical services to the country’s underserved. He wrote about the experience here in the DMU Blog.

“This is an excellent opportunity to practice and refine the skills learned in our medical education,” says Jonathan, originally from Strawberry Point, Iowa. “But probably the most significant opportunity presented by this trip is the opportunity to help an extremely underserved group of people, some of whom have never received medical care in their lives. Providing this care is a very humbling experience and really allows you to look at life through a different lens.”

Right now, Thompson and Kendall Blair, a DMU osteopathic medical student, are student leaders for another weeklong trip to El Salvador. This time, the group will include Thompson’s father, Craig Thompson, a family physician and DMU alumnus.

“I’ve long planned to do something of this nature. Some of my colleagues and co-workers have already done so, and they all found it rewarding and renewing,” Craig says. “I have always considered myself fortunate to practice medicine. It is a good way to provide for your family and be a positive force in others’ lives. With privilege comes responsibility. That extends to using your abilities to help others who have needs. Medicine provides such a wonderful vehicle to do that.”

The two Thompsons have an additional reason to participate in the trip: each other.  “I’m so enthused to be working with my son as part of the team and seeing him in a different role than ever before,” Craig says. “He has always worked hard and thought of others. Truly a trip that will provide a refreshed prospective on medicine, fatherhood and life.”

Jonathan shares that enthusiasm. “I was fortunate enough to have this experience by taking part in the first trip to El Salvador, but it will be an even richer experience embarking on this adventure with my dad during this year’s trip,” he says. “I’m looking forward to working side-by-side with him and sharing this unique experience.”

Medical service trips are an experience Jonathan encourages other DMU students to take advantage of. “We as medical students are extremely fortunate to have such unique global health opportunities available to us during our education,” he says. “Des Moines University is setting the trend for and defining the role of global health in a medical education today.”

One of DMU’s bloggers, Tea, is also on the spring break trip right now with Jonathan and Craig. They’ll be sharing stories and photos with us all upon their return!

Photo: Jonathan with El Salvadorian locals on the 2008 trip.
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