Dean Clinic providers make humanitarian trip to Nicaragua
Two Dean Clinic physicians and a physician’s assistant recently returned from a 10-day trip to Nicaragua that focused on medical care, clean water and public health.
Trent Thompson, MD, Phil Bain, MD, and Jeff Welsch, PA-C, were accompanied by a cardiologist from Oconomowoc and 50 undergraduate students from the University of Wisconsin and the University of Virginia through the Global Brigades program. The trip involved a medical/dental brigade, a water brigade and a public health brigade.
“The holistic approach of Global Brigades combining multiple types of brigades allowed us to have a much greater impact in Nicaragua than if we only participated in a single brigade type”, said Dr. Bain.
The group of eight health care professionals – four from the U.S. and four from Nicaragua – worked with the students to see nearly 900 patients during the first three days of the trip in the small rural community of San Marcos. They treated mainly common ailments often related to the difficult living conditions that Nicaraguans face.
After the medical/dental brigades were completed, the group participated in the water brigade portion of the program by helping to dig a trench down a mountain. The trench will ultimately contain a water pipe, which will connect a water reservoir at the top of the mountain to a village at the base.
“Going from the clinic setting literally to the field was quite a contrast in activity,” said Jeff. “We gained an immediate appreciation for how difficult the life of a typical Nicaraguan worker is, sweating in the hot sun all day, and day after day. We were spent after just one morning.”
The final brigade involved public health projects such as building eco latrines, showers, septic fields and pouring concrete floors for homes in a El Salto, a tiny community of 100 inhabitants. The group worked closely with families in the village to complete the projects.
“Imagine living in a house with mud walls, a dirt floor and a pit toilet,” said Jeff. “Every moment of our discomfort was worth it to see the Nicaraguan homeowner’s broad smile as she admired the concrete floor and sanitation station we built for her and her family.”
Global Brigades is the largest student-led nonprofit health and sustainable development organization with varied membership that spans universities in North American and Europe. Participating student and professional volunteers empower communities in developing countries with sustainable solutions that improve the quality of life and environment while respecting local culture.