Spring Breakthroughs: So much more to the story

From Des Moines to the Dominican Republic and Biloxi, Mississippi, global health students rekindled their commitment to medicine. Students shared the lessons they learned this spring in personal reflections.


Flexibility • Providing good care with few resources

“Today we spent the morning doing some maintenance work at the Bethel Free Clinic. The nurses at the clinic were very grateful for what we did and invited us to come back later in the week for some clinical exposure with the providers! That is definitely some good news to us medical students…Although our schedule changed quite a bit at the last minute, everyone on the team was flexible.”
Dixon Xu, D.P.M.’17, Biloxi

“I loved my experience at the lab station because I was able to see the tests in action, which gave them much greater meaning when I was looking at test results from the provider’s point of view…I also enjoyed, for the most part, the challenge of describing the process of peeing into a cup to patients in my less-than-perfect Spanish, complemented by some rather unrefined charades, and I think the patients were fairly entertained as well.”
Hannah Hurst, D.O.’18, Dominican Republic

“[One] of my friends had a patient that needed a similar [OMM] treatment. She treated the patient but then taught the family of the patient how to do the same treatment whenever the patient got sick or hurt with the same thing…They began to practice and you could totally see how they…felt empowered by the ability to treat in some small way their own ills, instead of depending on a foreigner.”
Marshall Sheide, D.O.’18, Dominican Republic

“I treated a really bad piriformis tender point [using osteopathic manual medicine]. Following my treatments, the patient said that he felt ‘much, much better!’ This was gratifying to me on several levels. One, it was nice to actually treat a real person with real problems. Two, it was great reassurance that what I am learning in school is actually translating to my future aspirations. Three, doing OMM through a translator it not an easy task because communication is so essential, BUT I was successful…Four, medications are limited on these trips, so being able to treat a patient with my hands was very fulfilling, and it really cemented my decision to go to Des Moines University to get my medical education.”
Paul Guzik, D.O.’18, Dominican Republic


Learning that all acts of service make positive differences big and small

“[The trip] reminded me of how precious certain resources are and how one can lose sight of what is precious and what is not when resources are available in excess. Furthermore, it reminded me of the value of a minimalistic lifestyle – citizens of third world countries make do with what they have. They prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and don’t think to complain because what they have is enough for them. It’s a mentality I hope to develop in myself, one that I wish everyone could develop whether they are successful or not, whether they are wealthy or not, whether resources are available to them in excess or not at all.”
Iaswarya “Ice” Ganapathiraju, D.O.’18, Dominican Republic

“I don’t know what I was chosen to go to the States and go to parents who were wise enough to educate me and educate me well. Why was I more worthy of that situation than one of these little ones with flies around his eyes who takes care of the goats, or the man with terrible arthritis in his knees but still walks/crawls his way to work everyday because he knows that is the only way to feed his family?… The disparity between us and them is so great that only my confidence that God knows what He’s doing gives me any consolation.”
Marshall Sheide, D.O.’18, Dominican Republic


Importance of listening to, gaining the trust of and showing respect for patients and other health care professionals

“The poorest members of these communities, the Haitian migrants who cross the border in search of work, face additional political, discrimination, language, cultural and communication barriers, making access to health care almost impossible…I talked to the farmers who shared with me stories of past hardships, faith and family. On a day when I expected to learn about the importance of health care for a disadvantaged population, I learned instead about the importance of story, hope and perseverance. For myself, the greatest learning occurred in these rather unexpected places – in conversations with patients, in observation of the dedication that Dr. [Miguel] Garcia and Timmy’s medical coordinator put into their work, and in reflection upon my return home.”
Rachel Hildebrand, D.O.’17, Dominican Republic

“The biggest things for me were being part of a team of diverse students and having the opportunity to shadow the different providers. It let me see health care as a circle, what the patient experiences through the entire process. I can’t stress enough how great the team was and how cool it was to learn from and share with each other.”
Kelsey Japs, Drake pharmacy student, Dominican Republic


Reminder why they decided to pursue medicine in the first place • Commitment to future volunteerism

“My favorite part of the trip was the educational presentation that we put on [on healthy snacking]. About eight people showed up, and in my opinion it was for the best. Instead of preaching to a [larger] group, it turned into an informal two-way conversation. I may have learned more about public health during the presentation they they did about healthy snacking.”
Daniel Van Kalsbeek, D.O.’18, Biloxi

“I have noticed the impact of the trip on my outlook toward school and renewal of my passions to practice medicine. It is easy to lose sight of the goals of the applications of medicine and the impact of access to health care while buried in hundreds of PowerPoint slides of seemingly unconnected basic science course work.”
Julia Peterson, D.O.’18, Dominican Republic

“Personally, I felt this trip renewed my passion for medicine and reminded me why I choose health care. Before the trip, I was feeling drained from hours of PowerPoint presentations, textbooks and board studying. I felt that I was getting lost in examinations and losing sight of the goal. My interactions and experiences with the health care professionals in the Dominican Republic have allowed me to regain my focus and motivation.”
Kara Brock, D.P.M.’17, Dominican Republic

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