LUCOM, Hope of Life International partnership strengthens with third international outreach
Service, teamwork, and integrity are among the core values of Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine (LUCOM) which exist to prepare physicians who dedicate themselves to excellence in the practice of osteopathic medicine. On Friday, June 24, over 50 student doctors, accompanied by an equal number of administrative staff, faculty, and professional volunteers, embarked on the third international medical outreach event to Zacapa, Guatemala, to provide osteopathic and manipulative care. The goal was to improve the health status of the patients they encountered in the villages served.
Student-doctors provided health services and clinics in the villages of Santa Cruz, San Pablo, and Las Carretas during their stay in Guatemala. They spent their time examining, treating, and educating patients under the supervision of LUCOM faculty, medical profession volunteers, and staff. The team examined over 1,500 patients over the course of the eight-day trip. “As a team, we provided pediatric exams for children and infants, general checkups for adults and soldiers, and maternal exams for expecting mothers,” said rising second-year student-doctor Eloisa Amaya. “My expectations were exceeded in observing the quality of care our professors gave patients, their level of expertise in their fields, and their gift and ability to teach us.”
Students had the opportunity to provide osteopathic medical care for men, women, and children with a focus of the medical outreach event on improving health and wellness through education as well as treating disease and illness. According to rising second-year student-doctor David Barton, the trip rejuvenated his passion for helping others. “It’s easy to get caught up in the relentless studying of medical school and forget why you are doing it in the first place.” He added, “I hoped this trip would remind me of my passion for serving those in need and to just regain some perspective on the reason for me going to medical school.”
In addition to providing preventative and acute care, osteopathic manipulative medicine, wellness and support, student-doctors and faculty also established an ophthalmology station where they could provide screening services. This service was a first for LUCOM medical outreach teams. Utilizing a Plusoptix SC 12 vision screener, an instrument designed to screen vision in pre-verbal children while providing data on the refractive error in each eye allowed the students and primary care physicians to screen and then refer children who require a full examination. “We were able to screen up to seventy children a day, of which six or seven would require full exams, and I was able to see other patients with the extra time this allowed me,” said David Klink, D.O., a Pediatric Ophthalmologist who serves as the Chair of the Department of Specialty Medicine at LUCOM. “Pam Bowers, learned how to use the instrument in about ten minutes on the first day of the trip and quickly became our screening expert, teaching our students how to use the screener and interact with the children.”
LUCOM continued its partnership with the nonprofit organization Hope of Life International to support the logistics of the medical outreach. “Hope of Life International has a long history and continuing mission to meet the needs of the Guatemalan people not only physically but also spiritually,” said Laura Santiago, Coordinator of Medical Outreach and International Medicine for LUCOM. “By partnering with them we have been able to expand our service to people in need, and support LUCOM’s mission to train physicians who will provide ethical, compassionate, competent, and patient-centered osteopathic medical care.” Additional partners who supported the medical outreach event were the U.S. Embassy, the Guatemala Minister of Health in Zacapa, and the Director of the Hospital in Zacapa.
As in previous medical outreach events conducted by LUCOM, Blessings International donated pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to support the trip, a major factor in ensuring the success of the event. At the conclusion of the week, the remaining medications and medical supplies were donated to Hope of Life’s St. Luke’s Hospital and nutrition treatment center by LUCOM.
LUCOM medical outreach events, in Virginia, Central America, or Africa provide an opportunity for student-doctors, faculty, administrative staff, and volunteers to live out the passion to serve others and support the servants’ hearts that are integral to the mission and vision of the college while also providing opportunities to provide spiritual support to countless fellow men and women and children in need. For most, the event was more than an opportunity to apply medical knowledge and skills learned in the classroom, it was an occasion to serve. “Through God’s grace, we were able to travel safely, do a great work, and return home with a wonderful joy that only comes through the love of Christ,” said James Cook, Director of Medical Outreach and International Medicine for LUCOM. “Medical care that was provided was only temporary, but the group made a lasting impact by sharing the love of Jesus Christ.”
Local events currently being planned include, but are not limited to, a medical outreach event in Martinsville, Va., through a partnership with Piedmont Access to Health Services (P.A.T.H.S) to provide continuity of care to those in underserved area. “As the Medical Outreach office, we are committed to being Christ’s hands and feet while being fully invested in LUCOM’s mission,” said Santiago. “We provide an opportunity for our student-doctors’ to exercise their servant hearts and enhance their skills as physicians.” Additionally, LUCOM’s Office of Medical Outreach and International Medicine is currently planning two additional trips to Zacapa, Guatemala, in the spring and summer of 2017.