Montana Medical Mission Complete
Wegmans School of Pharmacy students have done it again, and completed the School’s fourth medical mission of the summer. A total of eight students, led by Associate Professor Dr. Jennifer Mathews, returned from Montana in early August after spending seven days offering their services to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. It was the School’s first service trip to Montana.
The group traveled with Global Volunteers, a partner of UNICEF and the Food and Agriculture Organization and special consultant to the United Nations. Global Volunteers promotes world peace and justice by establishing and nurturing relationships with the local people. This was the seventh team to visit the Blackfeet Reservation this summer, consisting of 20 group members.
Pharmacy APPE (Advanced Practice Pharmacy Experience) students Greg Splain and Melissa Backus, along with Emma Gorman, Ryan DeCaro, In Lam, Kayla Bonanza, Barbara Broderick, and Mark Besley, participated in a variety of projects while there.
They volunteered all over the reservation, while many of the projects were centered in the town of Browning. Students were involved in a four-day Sobriety Festival, interviewed a local medicine man and herbalist, toured the Indian Health Services facilities, and took part in a breastfeeding awareness clinic. They also served at a care center for the elderly and at Mental Health Services. In addition, they learned more about Native American culture through the Sun Dance festival and local artisans who shared their porcupine quill jewelry, teepee construction, drawings, and traditional dancing and drumming.
While the School has served in India, El Salvador, Kenya, and Honduras, it had yet to establish a program to aid the disadvantaged here in the United States. And according to Mathews, it was important for the School to establish a service trip that served the domestic population.
One of the reasons students Backus and Splain selected this service project for their elective APPE rotation was to explore other views on medicine. Backus’ philosophy is that it is important to remember the whole person when offering treatment. She also said encouraging patients to include traditional elements such as ceremonies, herbs, and prayer in therapy may promote better adherence to other more standardized treatments.
“Although western medicine is used and accepted to a certain degree, it seems that for many people their deep sense of spirituality is still the main path to healing,” said Splain.
Several of the students on the trip have expressed an interest in returning to the Blackfeet Reservation to continue the work they started and to further their relationships with the community leaders there. The Wegmans School of Pharmacy hopes to sponsor another Montana trip next July.
Students working at Indian Health Services.
The whole Wegmans School of Pharmacy team at the Sundance Festival site.
Students meeting with a local medicine woman.