When his first patient exclaimed, “My heart is on fire!”, then-first-year DMU osteopathic medical student Marshall Sheide was sure the patient was about to have a heart attack or other life-threatening issue. But after the calm clinician next to him asked the patient some questions, he was diagnosed with simple heartburn and given antacids and information on how to avoid those symptoms.
“Needless to say, I felt rather humiliated by my extreme lack of insight. Then something amazing happened: rather than laugh at me, the clinician sat down and explained his process of analysis,” Sheide recalls. “My confidence grew, and the next time I saw a patient whose ‘heart was on fire,’ I knew exactly what to do.”
He and other DMU students gleaned numerous such lessons during the University’s health service trip to the Dominican Republic last March. In March 2016, during spring break, DMU will again deploy students to underserved areas: a group of 20 back to the Dominican Republic, in conjunction with Timmy Global Health; and a group of 10 to Breathitt County, KY, DMU’s first trip there.
“That’s a new location for us, so it will require a lot of flexibility, but we’re excited about it,” says James Renier, a second-year podiatric medical student and student leader for the Kentucky trip. “Given the social determinants of health, the experience will show us all the things we can do as providers outside of clinical practice.”
Student leaders of the Dominican Republic trip are Sheide, podiatric medical student Ellen Barton and osteopathic medical student Michaela Simmons.
DMU’s health service trips are open to all students at the university, who provide care and education under supervising clinicians. Given the high interest in such trips among students, they must submit applications and participate in an interview to be accepted. Once in, they attend pre-trip meetings and participate in fundraising activities to purchase medical supplies.
“Trips like this, you need them,” Sheide says. “We get all this textbook stuff in our heads, so it’s great to get in front of actual patients.”