A group of medical students from the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine (ICOM) recently returned from a medical service trip to Panama, where the future physicians ran a free clinic over the course of a week.
Organized by Global Brigades, an international non-profit organization and the largest student-led movement for global health, six ICOM students had the opportunity to provide free medical care and hygiene education in Higueronal — a Latino community in Eastern Panama.
“Having gone on a brigade last year, I had an idea of what to expect,” said Matthew Butt, an incoming third-year student at ICOM and President of the College’s Global Brigades Chapter. “Yet the previous experience never prepares you for your realization of the situation. These communities have no or extremely limited access to healthcare. Their access to clean water is severely limited. It puts your own life into perspective.”
According to Global Brigades, Higueronal has a health facility — known as a “Puesto de Salud” — located in the center of the community. It has some basic medication needed for common sickness in the community, but does not have any medical equipment. The nearest health center, or “Centro de Salud,” is is in the town of Torti, which is approximately 20 minutes away by bus. The nearest hospital is one and a half hours away in Chepo.
“I’ll be the first to criticize the work we do; it is the equivalent of putting a band-aid on a bullet wound,” said Student Doctor Butt. “Unfortunately though, until large systemic change can occur in these countries, the issue of healthcare access is here to stay and what we do is the best we have. That is why I go on these trips. If we catch an abnormal pap smear, a new mass, or provide treatment to a sick child, then it’s all worth it. If I could, I’d be on the next flight tomorrow to do it all over again.”
On this medical service trip, ICOM students were also joined by 13 volunteers from Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Georgetown University School of Medicine, and Washington University School of Medicine. The College’s Global Brigades Chapter is hoping to serve on another medical brigade next summer.
The ICOM students who attended include: Matthew Butt; Brian Chan; Lynnlee Duck-Reynolds; Anthony Guidotti; Kenneth Harary; and Jenny Scheffel.