Mizzou med students provide more than medical care on medical mission trip.
Hauling backpacks filled with scrubs, sunscreen, tennis shoes and stethoscopes, 27 Mizzou medicine representatives — 15 women, 12 men — head to a rural area in the mountains of Guatemala for a weeklong medical mission trip. They dispense more than medical care.
Planning began in September 2013. Students interested in making the trip, sponsored by MU’s Christian Medical and Dental Association and Christian Fellowship Church of Columbia, had to raise $1,600 each to cover expenses, says team co-leader John Krumme, a fourth-year medical student from Mineral Wells, W.Va. Most succeeded in getting at least partial support by writing letters to family and friends. The 27 travelers included pediatric attending physician Dr. Shari Smith of Joplin, Mo.; four Mizzou resident physicians, 16 medical students, five family members and one local Guatemalan.
Required immunizations for typhoid and hepatits A came next. Then, students worked several shifts in front of Wal-Mart stores, entreating passersby to donate over-the-counter medicines that would be packed in luggage on the March 15 flight from Kansas City, Mo., through Houston to Guatemala City, a distance of 2,503 miles. ASELSI leaders Ron and Sally Widbin, members of The Crossing Church in Columbia, meet the students at the airport. ASELSI stands for the Association for Equipping the Saints, International. The Widbins get them to Chichicastenango, a three-hour bumpy, dusty ride, via chicken bus March 16.
Team co-leader Sherea Monica Stricklin, a fourth-year student from Irondale, Mo., shares her notes from the trip:
“Sunday, March 9 — We traveled to Chichicastenango, prepared supplies and oriented team members for clinic on the following four days. We also attended a local church event in the evening, experiencing the raw and true spiritual worship of an amazingly stoic group of people.
“Monday through Thursday, March 10 to 13 — Every year we set up clinic at rural villages that have limited access to any medical care as well as host clinic at ASELSI, the local missionary clinic. This year we spent two days at the village of Xepocol and two days at ASELSI. We saw approximately 550 patients during the week. Everyone has a part in making the clinic a success. The physicians and senior medical students serve as medical providers with junior medical students assisting. We also have physicians, students and other team members serving in triage to take vitals and dispense the donated over-the-counter and prescription medications in the pharmacy.
“Health care isn’t all that we provide, though. Many of these patients have been through hardships — losing loved ones to violence or illness or being abused at home. We listen and pray with as many of our patients that wish us to. We also have a place set up for them to meet with a pastor, the closest thing to a counselor, who provides the patients with a connection to the community if they are lost. We host a children’s ministry throughout the day and send many team members to work on construction projects throughout the week.
“This year our team turned dirt floors into concrete floors in the three-room house of Moises Chinol’s family, a Guatemalan missionary who works with the ASELSI ministry. There were enough leftover supplies to build a concrete porch as well. Miguel Angel, Moises’ father-in-law, is so appreciative of the work done by the students that he wrote “Mizzou 2014” in the wet concrete. Team members who work on this project are touched emotionally and spiritually. They say they can’t begin to describe the gratitude the family expressed.
“Throughout the week, Rob Cristel, a first-year medical student from St. Louis, faithfully sends daily, albeit brief, emails to family back home. He attaches a few photos of the team’s daily journeys
“Friday and Saturday, March 14 and 15 — We woke up early at the Casa Del Rey, the hotel we’ve called home for the week. Once again, we load up on the colorful chicken bus to begin the long trek on bumpy roads with hairpin curves to Guatemala City. At rest stops along the way, we ate and explored local culture. After a nice dinner with the Widbins, we turned in early. Up at 4 a.m. Saturday, we took the 6:05 a.m. flight home.”
Krumme says: “It is always difficult to explain the impact the trip has on each of us and our patients in Guatemala. I know this trip greatly impacts the way many of us feel about practicing medicine with spirituality. It certainly changed my life and how I plan to practice medicine.”