Haiti diaries #1: Why I decided to go on a mission trip

Posted on April 8, 2014

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When I got into pharmacy school, I thought I wanted to work in industry – you know, like Merck, Pfizer and all the other big-wigs. However as time went by, I interned at a community pharmacy and found that I really enjoyed the patient interaction. I love hearing people’s stories, which you tend to hear a lot of when you work in the community. It generally made me feel a lot closer to them, and opened up better counselling opportunities.
Then I had an Ambulatory care rotation at Grady Health Diabetes center, which made an even bigger impact. Not only was I close to the patient, but I was also providing direct patient care tailored according to each individual’s lifestyle, literacy level, affordability etc. This was a whole new world for me – far away from hospital charts and a step ahead of dispensing and counseling; I felt like I was making a bigger difference. From people who suffered amputations because they weren’t literate enough to receive proper diabetes education, to people who thought because they couldn’t physically feel diabetes it wasn’t a real disease.
This experience was what kick-started my penchant for under-served communities – they deserved access to quality health care too, and I was convinced they could do so much better if only they were educated better at a level that they understood. Unfortunately after graduation, due to certain circumstances, I was unable to pursue a residency in Ambulatory care. I therefore settled well into life as a community pharmacist (which despite its ups and downs, I still loved) but I knew I wanted something more, so I volunteered at several not-for-profit clinics and served at community health fairs etc.
Then earlier this year, while making New Years resolutions and setting goals, I prayed for a higher career fulfillment and purpose. I knew I wanted to offer care to an under-served community, and I also knew I wanted to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone. I had made several inquiries about medical mission trips in the past (which I never followed up on), so I decided to activate a few of those leads. What I didn’t plan for was the quick response and perfect timing. Haiti Outreach Ministries responded with the same availability as my vacation dates, and paired me with a medical team from Haiti who also coincidentally needed a pharmacist on their team. Plus, I had only about a month to get ready!
So here I am – vacation plans abandoned, and taking a big nervous but excited step in the medical mission direction. I have not met any of the other medical personnel I will be going with (4 doctors and 12 medical students), but I am confident that we will make a great team. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you, and if you have any mission tips please feel free to post them in the comment section.
P.S – On March 11 2014, a bill was introduced into the House of Representatives that will allow state-licensed pharmacists to provide care for patients in medically underserved communities and to be paid for their services. The services that pharmacists could provide include immunizations, diabetes screenings and self-management education, cardiovascular screenings, and behavioral therapy amongsts others.
I am very excited about this bill, and I hope it is passed soon. Stay tuned, and don’t forget to follow/subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss my updates!
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Posted in: MUSINGS