Pharmacy Students Complete Another Mission in El Salvador
Over the course of a week in late July, eight students from the Wegmans School of Pharmacy served about 2,100 patients in San Miquel, El Salvador, completing another medical mission.
Dr. Alex DeLucenay ’06, ’10 (Pharm.D.), and his wife, Mary ’08, led eight students on the trip. DeLucenay said he takes the students so that he can provide the same eye-opening experience he had as a student. The group travels as part of a larger group affiliated with Global Health Outreach, and they stayed in San Miguel where they worked with a local church and set up a clinic at the church school.
“It was such a blessing to have a school where we foster compassionate pharmacists and encourage them to grow more than just academically. It's so important in order to provide great patient-centered care both here and abroad,” he said.
Paige Nelson, a P-4 student, had her first taste of a mission trip when she was 15 years old in Haiti. While it was not a medical trip, she learned then that missions are unique and rewarding experiences. She said she knew at that age that she wanted to become a pharmacist, and decided in Haiti that she would work towards combining volunteerism and pharmacy into a pursuit of medical missions. Additionally, she chose Fisher because she heard about all of the mission work that the Wegmans School of Pharmacy offered to students.
Having participated in a medical mission last year, Nelson took on more responsibilities this time around. Prior to the trip, she worked closely with DeLucenay to help make formulary (list of medications) and order the medications they would use in El Salvador. During the clinic, she took on her own health education project where she screened patients for hypertension and diabetes and taught them about the diseases and potential long-term effects. In addition, she gave patients literature with information about what they could do to improve their health through diet and exercise.
“This was very beneficial for the patients and rewarding for myself because many of the patients cannot afford medications for their diseases, and now they are at least aware of what they have as well as lifestyle changes they can do to better themselves,” said Nelson.
Nelson counseling patients on hypertension.
Nelson started each morning by attending bible study, and would depart with the group by 8:00 a.m. for the clinic. All patients would go through the pharmacy and would receive a multivitamin, anti-parasite medication, and prescribed medications if needed. On average, the group saw about 420 patients each day for a five-day clinic.
She said the most impactful moments for her happened when she was able to talk to the patients and get to know them on a more personal level. While she was moved by all of their stories, there was one in particular that stood out to her.
One of the patients she saw had to be carried into the clinic because his arthritis was so bad that he couldn’t walk. The physical therapist working at the clinic was trying to show him some stretches and exercises he could do to help build his strength, but Nelson said his condition made her efforts seem impossible. And while the clinic did not have any wheelchairs to give, the team sent a translator into town to see how much it would cost to buy him one. The total was $170, and the team pulled together enough money to purchase the wheelchair for him.
“His tears of joy made me realize how something so simple can be life-changing. It also reminded me that although there are millions of needy people in this world, and it seems overwhelming to try and help everyone, by changing one person’s life at a time, we can really make a difference,” said Nelson.
Nelson said that participating in the mission trips is important because, as students, making the formulary for patients after the doctor’s diagnosis is a great experience. The students are left to make treatment recommendations to the patients.
“That experience allows us to use and learn new clinical knowledge, and also helps us with our counseling skills because we have to counsel the patients whom we are medicating,” she said. “More importantly, these mission trips give students a greater appreciation for all they have and a better understanding of the needs of the rest of the world. It is a great eye opener for ways to help others in our local community as well. Working in the clinic allows us to serve with a genuine heart. We don’t have to worry about insurances and money, or meeting time limits set by pharmacies we work for.”
Nelson does not plan on stopping these missions anytime soon. She is planning to complete another trip during one of her six week APPE rotation blocks this year.
“I plan on making medical missions a lifetime commitment,” she said.
Dr. DeLucenay and students at the clinic.
Mary DeLucenay (2nd from left) and Nelson teaching dancing with local children.
Fisher's medical mission group!