So, how did you spend your summer vacation?
School of Nursing group delivers health care to rural Honduras
While most of us were taking advantage of some much-needed summer downtime — puttering in the garden or lazing at the lake — a stalwart group from the UMKC School of Nursing packed their bags and headed south. Not to bask on the beaches of Florida or Acapulco, though; they headed a bit farther south to pursue a more academic and philanthropic mission.
Each summer since 2004, Thad Wilson, associate professor and associate dean of the School of Nursing, has led a group to the Central American country of Honduras. For two weeks, they team up with local health care workers in both rural and urban settings to provide care to some of the country’s most needy and neglected citizens.
In the past, the UMKC group consisted of clinical faculty and students from the schools of nursing and pharmacy. For the first time, however, this year’s group included two administrative staff members from the nursing school -- Keyna Chertoff, Research Associate, and Emily VanArsdale, Academic Advisor and Executive Assistant to the Deans.
“Beside the fact that we can always use extra hands on these trips, we thought it would be a great experience for someone outside the health professions to see what health care delivery looks like in another country,” Wilson said.
The group traveled to the Honduran countryside, where they set up a temporary clinic in the remote mountain village of Chaguitillos. Locals from the area lined up to be treated – many of whom had not seen a health care provider since the last time a volunteer or mission group visited them.
After several days there, the group moved on to La Buena Fe, the site of a permanent, albeit rustic, clinic in a slightly more populated area of rural Honduras. There, the group worked with local health care providers to treat everything from arthritis to infections and worms.
“It’s a stark reminder that, for all the flaws and shortcomings of the U.S. health care system, there are people and places in the world where the opportunities for even the most basic medical attention is all but nonexistent,” Wilson said.
VanArsdale and Chertoff agreed, adding that it was truly an eye-opening experience for them, and one they will never forget.
“I learned so much about how health care happens and, unfortunately, how often it doesn’t happen in other parts of the world,” VanArsdale said. I will certainly never take for granted again the health care we have here in the United States.”
“What struck me was how patient and resilient the Honduran people are,” Chertoff added. “To see how grateful they were to have us there was humbling.”
As an educator, Wilson says those “Aha! moments” are the most rewarding aspect of the experience for the group members.
“I think that everyone we’ve ever taken has had those moments,” Wilson said. “Those moments treating a patient or comforting a sick child when something clicks and they really understand the challenges faced by so many underserved communities across the globe. It is definitely a life-changing experience.”