"...Online Newsletter from the Pittsburg State University College of Arts and Sciences"

Pre-meds go to Belize

Kortney Schippers and a patient in Belize
Kortney Schippers and a patient in Belize

"Every day we would wake up early in the morning, drive at least 4 hours on a rickety bus with no air conditioning, and arrive in a 'town' that is unlike anything I have seen before," says Zach Krumsick, PSU pre-med student.  Zach was speaking of the trip he took to Belize last summer which was sponsored by Pittsburg State University and led by Mandy Peak, Assistant Professor of Biology.

Trips such as these, organized as medical missions, challenge those involved and show them a world they haven't seen.

"The houses typically had one room, and everyone slept on a hammock that hangs from the center," Krumsick says. "No wonder the Belizean people had back problems."

The medical problems weren't limited to back problems as those who took part saw everything from athlete's foot to tuberculosis. PSU's program focuses on traveling to more remote villages, so in many instances this is the only time those served will see a healthcare provider during the year.

"Although such trips are certainly not ideal for managing chronic conditions, many problems can be dealt with effectively," says Neil Bryan, a former PSU pre-med student who had helped organize a previous trip to Peru and who is now in medical school at the University of Kansas.  "Giving young women pre-natal vitamins is an example: a short-term, low-cost involvement that can prevent life-long birth defects."

Nicole Wilt, a PSU senior and also a veteran of the Peru trip, also took part.

"While in Belize, we mainly focused on health education," says Nicole. "For the kids, we focused on how to brush teeth, wash hands, use latrines, etc.  For the adults, we focused more on good nutrition and exercise, how to prevent and/or deal with diabetes, and hypertension and hyperlipidemia."

While dealing with diseases and foreign travel were important parts of the trip. The students were affected in deeper ways.

"My favorite clinical experience from Belize," says senior Dave Ramsey, "was during our final clinic outside of Punta Gorda in Barronco. It was the last patient we saw that day. She had experienced a traumatic injury to her hip when she about 18 or 19 years old. Due to the way it healed her injury left her walking awkward and uncomfortably with one leg shorter than the other up until now, as a woman in her 50's or 60's. We were able to do our small part in helping."

"Sometimes the lines of patients never seemed to die down, and it was amazing to me how the people just wanted to be touched by the doctor," said Krumsick. 

Nicole Wilt seems to sum up the feeliings of the group when she says:

"My experiences studying abroad were once in a lifetime opportunities I would never give up for anything and I am so glad I didn't pass my chances up to do so!"

(Participants: Drue Barton, Esther Campbell, Megan Carlson, Gerald Diskin, Chris Eastman, Kristen Espinosa, Lesli Gilbert, Danielle Hall, Dave Heins, Eric Huun, Zach Krumsick, Kyle Marcotte, Mary Marquardt, Andrea Peterson, Dave Ramsey, Erin Richmond, Kortney Schippers, Nicole Wilt, Josh Wormington, Olivia Wright, Mandy Peak and Vicki Webber.)

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