In the fall of 2013, I co-founded the University of Arizona chapter of Global Student Embassy (GSE), an organization devoted to global health and sustainability. Our mission is to educate about the important link between health and sustainability and spread access to these programs. Last summer, I had the opportunity to do just that with 14 other club members in the under resourced communities of Boaco and Chacraseca in Nicaragua. The trip allowed me to continue exploring the world and experiencing new cultures while offering me the opportunity to gain clinical experience and spread health education.
I was able to take patients' blood pressures and histories and shadow clinic nurses and doctors. I also accompanied nurses on house visits to see patients that were unable to make it to the clinic. During this time, I saw numerous patients with a variety of chronic and acute conditions. It was humbling to see patients with conditions such as kidney stones and high blood pressure that are easily treated in the United States, but are life threatening conditions in Nicaragua due to the limited resources.
My trip to Nicaragua solidified my desire to pursue a career in medicine because it gave me a hands-on approach to healthcare that I hadn’t experienced before. I was able to interact with patients as I took their medical histories and vital signs to then report to the doctors. It was humbling to have to ask questions such as the material of the floor in the patients’ homes and hear that they were simply dirt. This opened my eyes to the disparity in access to resources that exists and further fueled my goal of helping bring healthcare to those in need.
I also was able to engage in agricultural volunteering opportunities such as starting school and community gardens and helping to construct garden irrigation systems. I learned composting techniques and ways of returning nutrients to the soil to make the land fertile and productive. The goal behind the gardens is to promote sustainability and self-sufficiency in the communities and encourage healthier diets by providing easier access to fruits and vegetables. I was able to work with Nicaraguans from the community and learn about their lives and goals. Along with the gardens, I educated the communities about the importance of nutritious diets and the connection to good health.
Witnessing the healthcare disparity first hand has motivated me even more to search for opportunities to assist underserved populations in our local community. I have been exploring opportunities to volunteer with these populations in the Tucson area so I can share them with other University of Arizona students and hopefully inspire them to volunteer not only abroad, but at home as well. For more information about GSE, please visit www.globalstudentembassy.org or if you would like information about the University of Arizona chapter, feel free to check out the ASUA club list!