Costa Rica and Nicaragua – Medical Service Trip — The North Star Reports – by Mackenzie Sherrill. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal
This past summer I was blessed with the opportunity to accomplish many things I have been yearning to do for quite some time now: travel abroad, serve others in a medical setting, and grow as an individual. My journey to Costa Rica and Nicaragua was centered around healing and helping the peoples of both countries, so prior to my departure, I knew it was going to be a life-changing 13 days.
Being immersed into two new cultures, both very different from my own, had my mind and ideas constantly focused on finding all the differences I could pinpoint between Central American cultures, and my own in the United States of America. I continually found myself admiring, even envying, these peoples’ simple ways of living over the more complex customs and traditions I have become accustomed to only 3,500 miles away. After having 6 clinic days in both countries and tending to over 548 patients collectively, both in-home and in clinical settings, one difference was able to stand out to me above all others. Although many of the patients we saw had severe medical conditions ranging from uncontrolled chronic illnesses to malnutrition, the doctors we had the opportunity of working alongside of seemed to focus much more upon preventative measures and health education, versus treating the ailment itself. At first, this type of treatment caught me off-guard because as I have observed, healthcare in the states is generally focused upon prescribing various treatments and medicines for medical conditions that are already fully present within the patient.
The concept of preventative healthcare seems to make much more sense in hopes of leading a country’s people to a healthier lifestyle, especially in ones that don’t have access to quality healthcare or medical resources. While hosting clinics in both Costa Rica and Nicaragua, I sometimes found myself saddened that we couldn’t do more for our patients, but it brought ease knowing that the health education we were providing them with could make all the difference in bringing real change to the communities we worked in. The doctors often stressed that if all we were able to do was educate our patients on how simple topics such as dental hygiene and nutrition are crucial to someone’s overall health, we would be providing these individuals with something much more useful and affective than medicine. With any amount of new knowledge, our patients would hopefully be able to apply it to their own lives, and the lives of their family members, creating a chain reaction of using preventative action towards achieving better health.
Although I was able to help educate the people of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, I believe the experience taught me equally as much about the culture in Central America and also how I hope to one day treat patients of my own.
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The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, Colombia, Norway, northeastern China, Nicaragua, Micronesia, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, El Salvador, England, Finland, Russia, Cyprus, and Haiti. We also publish student reviews of books, documentaries, and films, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers. We thank The Department of History and Politics and the School of Arts and Letters of The College of St. Scholastica for their generous financial support for The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal.
Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.
Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.
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