Friday, September 30, 2022

UM Pharmacy Students Provide Health Care to Dominican Republic

By Patrick Smith

University of Mississippi

University of Mississippi pharmacy students Ann Kate Meagher (middle) and Carley Puckett (right) assist pharmacist Hanson Walker with dispensing medication to patients during a medical mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Submitted photo

Six University of Mississippi pharmacy students spent part of their summer distributing medications and counseling patients in the Dominican Republic during a medical mission trip, and they say the experiences were life-changing and will make them better health care professionals.

Hannah Harvey, of Collins; Michael Kelley, from Booneville; Ann Kate Meagher, of Oxford; Carley Puckett, from Louisville; Anna Miller Rebich, of Brandon; and Madden Stockstill, from Picayune, all fourth-year students in the UM School of Pharmacy, joined a team of health professionals in the cities of Barahona and Bombita between June 10 and 17. 

The students supported the medical team in efforts to provide vital health care services, such as taking blood pressure, counseling diabetic patients, instructing the usage of oral asthma inhalers and distributing reading glasses and sunglasses. The trip gave students an opportunity to take part in services outside of pharmacy.

“I really liked how we got to switch jobs every day to keep things fresh and get a new perspective each day,” Meagher said.

Of course, they also put their pharmacy education to work and helped dispense medication, filling more than 3,000 prescriptions. In total, more than 700 patients were seen over the course of the trip.

The trip was sponsored by First Baptist Church of Jackson, in partnership with Hispaniola Mountain Ministries.

For the people of the Dominican Republic, all the services were a lifeline. For the students, it was an eye-opening and humbling experience. Medicines that many may take for granted, such as Tylenol, are seen as a big deal.

“I had no idea the impact that serving these people in this setting would have on me,” Puckett said. “I saw many different scenarios that I will never forget, but the thing that has stuck with me the most since leaving is their almost desperation to have simple medications that we as Americans can easily access. 

“What may be a simple Walmart trip for Tylenol for us can be a difficult feat for these people.”

Randy Calvert, director of pharmacy operations at the Mississippi Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Flowood and a preceptor with the School of Pharmacy, led the students on their trip. He was impressed by the students’ performance, even when faced with difficult circumstances.

“The students performed magnificently under conditions they were not used to,” he said. “They learned and spoke a lot of Spanish medical terms, worked in extreme heat and humidity, and conquered the language barrier with a smile.”

Calvert also noted that this trip was an empowering experience for students.

“They realized that they knew so much more than they gave themselves credit for,” he said. “They gained confidence in their skills, and were able to practice and use what they have learned up to this point in a real-life medical setting, working with others for the common goal of helping patients.”

Though nervous at first, students found they were given a warm reception.

“I was surprised at how welcoming and warm the people of the Dominican Republic were,” Meagher said. “They really respected us and trusted us to give them the right medications and treatments. 

“It made me realize even more how important it is to keep learning and being the best you can at your job because people do trust and rely on us to give them the best care.”

Besides the services they were providing, the students also had opportunities to experience the beautiful sights of the Dominican Republic. On their days off, they visited beaches, local markets and a natural waterfall park. 

This time also gave them a chance to reflect on the importance of their mission and how they can carry the lessons learned into their careers.

“This trip has shown me that I know more than I think and that with hard work and dedication, I can become the best pharmacist that I can be,” Harvey said.

For all the experiences of the trip, what might be most remembered will be the smiles.

“The joy that I feel when I think back on these children is immeasurable,” Puckett said. “They left such an impact on me, and I will forever remember their smiling faces each time they saw us.”


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