ACADEMICS at a Glance
(clockwise) Dr. Laura Gonzalez and students Jeffrey Huff, Juliany Brito, Shannon Hair and Geraldine Martinez
The UCF health care team in the Dominican Republic
Nursing and medical students worked tirelessly for six days, treating uninsured residents of all ages
L e ss o ns i n S e r v i c e , T e amwo r k an d C o m pass i o n UCF medical and nursing students and faculty members cared for 876 Dominican Republic residents in just six days and returned home in August with important lessons in interprofessional teamwork, service, cultural literacy and setting up a clinic in an impoverished area far from the comforts and medical technologies of modern life. “Coming to the Dominican Republic gives students an opportunity to really learn and practice clinical care while serving people who are patient, kind and grateful,” said Dr. Judy Simms-Cendan, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, director of international health programs, and faculty advisor to MedPACt, the global health interest medical student interest group that organizes the trip.
medical and nursing students also learned to set up and run a pharmacy, provide patient education on subjects including hygiene and first aid, and practice their Spanish language skills. Dr. Simms-Cendan said the nursing students taught the M.D. students about patient flow, cleanliness and sanitation. The medical students taught the nursing students about epidemiology, pathology and other basic science information about the conditions they saw. “We said throughout the trip how we all brought unique skills to the table,” she said. Nursing student Shannon Hair loved getting to work with new people every day. “I learned so much in triage. I really feel comfortable now with doing a thorough, but quick assessment.”
The clinics were located in elementary The UCF health care team included schools in rural communities of the 20 medical students (16 rising secondDominican Republic. And students saw year students and four rising fourth-year the impact of poverty on health—patients students), four rising four-year nursing suffering from severe intestinal conditions students, a student in computer science because of unclean drinking water and and a premed student. They worked with food, and untreated cuts medical students from and scrapes that became Universidad Catolica infected and in need of Nordestana — the medical “Being from serious care. Primary care school in San Francisco including treatment of the Dominican de Macoris, Dominican hypertension, diabetes Republic and Republic that works in and dermatologic partnership with the UCF having the conditions was provided. College of Medicine. The dedicated pediatrics opportunity to team cared for issues of The interprofessional help ‘mi gente’ (or nutrition, ear infections, approach to medical and asthma. The team also education provided an my people) was faced many psychosocial opportunity for all the an unforgettable effects of poverty. For students to learn medical example, domestic violence teamwork and how to set experience.” is another serious problem up a clinic from the ground in the Dominican Republic, up and begin seeing —Juliany Brito, which lacks shelters or patients in just 30 minutes. nursing student other resources for women. By working together, the
University of Central Florida
Nursing student Geraldine Martinez, who is originally from Nicaragua, said the experience allowed her to come full circle and pay it forward. “In Nicaragua, I was once a patient who waited long hours in long lines to be seen by a visiting U.S. doctor. This time, I was able to give back the care and attention once given to me. I hope this was the first of many medical mission trips in my future career as a nurse.” Nursing student Juliany Brito said the trip furthered her nursing skills and changed her perspective. “Being from the Dominican Republic and having the opportunity to help ‘mi gente’ (or my people) was an unforgettable experience. Providing care to the uninsured and seeing how thankful they were, even when we didn’t always have the necessary means to assist them, has helped me become a more compassionate nurse.” Faculty members included volunteer College of Medicine faculty Dr. Rafik Bouaziz and Dr. Alix Casler, and Dr. Laura Gonzalez from the College of Nursing, who Dr. Simms-Cendan described as “the goddess of triage who was able to care for hundreds of people a day and educate students all at the same time. We absolutely couldn’t have done this without her.” •
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