Author’s note: A group of DMU students recently participated in a global health service trip, organized by the University’s Global Health Department, in Eastern Kentucky. Below, one of those students, Naima Yusuf, a second-year student in DMU’s College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery, shares her experiences and perspectives from the trip. Watch the DMU blog for more insights from trip participant Pruthvi Kilaru, a student in DMU’s osteopathic medicine program.
As a group of 10 students, we made the journey from Iowa to Eastern Kentucky to learn about the health care system in Breathitt, Lee and Wolf counties. We stayed in the area for seven days and in a cabin surrounded by beautiful mountains and low cellular service. We each rotated to different sites and shared our experiences with one another. Some of us went with home health providers and hospital-based providers. Others visited the county health department where we shadowed environmentalists, the needle exchange program, COVID-19 testing and school vitality checks.
We got to learn about the impact of the needle exchange program and shadow health care providers who were nurse practitioners, physician assistants and physicians. The most impactful experience I had was with the needle program on my first day. I gained great insight on what building trust, being compassionate and promoting health and wellness look like.
We came to learn about the community and rural health, but we did not want to leave without giving back to the community. As the team leader, I organized our visit to Jackson City School. We spoke with students in elementary to high school about our journey to medicine and answered any questions they had about medicine. Our first- and second-grade students had us explaining everything from vaccines to constipation to the cost of health care. We also put on an interactive event for the students so they could take on the role of being a physician. Students were able to learn how to take a patient history, how to use a stethoscope and how to tie a surgical knot. In the county health department, our classmate, Pruthvi Kilaru, was able to find companies who would donate free toiletries to the community.
My experiences in Eastern Kentucky solidified my decision to work in a rural community once I graduate. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from amazing providers and give back to the community.