Mercer On Mission

2015 Blog

Friday-Weekend 2: Chris

In reflecting back on this amazing two week experience, several things have become clear. Although I have been on several previous medical trips and mission trips to various parts of the world before, this trip opened my eyes towards health disparities in ways that the others have not. My previous medical mission trip was to Romania, working alongside a Romanian doctor serving the Roma people. Although these people, too, face health disparities, working in Honduras resonated with me on a deeper level. For one, the situations that many of the Hondurans are living in seem to have less access to health care than in comparison to the Roma people. In one case, one patient in Honduras had to be told and explained what it meant to take a medication because he had literally never taken a medication ever in his life. At least in my experiences in other places, this has not been an issue that we have had to deal with before, and it just shows how high the degree of disparity is between healthcare in various parts of the globe.

Not only did the worse healthcare opportunities in Honduras resonate with me, but the role that I had on this trip allowed for me to have a deeper connection to the people and problems here. In being an interpreter, the relationship that was built between patients was much more natural and easy than in my other medical trips. In Romania, I am unable to speak the language, so it is much more difficult to build the same level of relationship with the people here. Interpreting also provides a unique opportunity to connect, as you serve not only as the voice of the health care providers, but as the voice of the patient as well. When the patients knew that there was someone there who could help them communicate and would understand their problems, they immediately seemed more calm and confident that they would receive proper care. This opens up the door for that relationship to be built. Being the person who directly tells the patient what he or she needs to do, and explaining to them the conditions that they have is also a unique connection that I made with the Honduran patients in being an interpreter. One of the most touching moments of interpreting that I had while on the trip was explaining to one patient that it is possible that her cancer had returned. She had not finished her chemotherapy treatment because it was too costly, and because she was afraid that it would continue to make her sick. In being the interpreter, I was the one who had to directly tell this patient the bad news, and find the right words to tell her. I have never faced a situation like this before and it will not be one that I soon forget.

Looking back on the trip as a whole, the health disparities that I thought that I had understood before coming on this trip through my previous mission experiences have been reshaped into a deeper understanding of the global issue of health disparities. So often living in the United States we take for granted the healthcare opportunities we have so readily available to us. In other places, like Honduras, the patients were much more appreciative of the care that they received, even when there was little to nothing that we could do for them. As someone who hopes to someday work in the medical field, this challenged me to understand how important it was for these people to be heard and understood. For many of these patients, even when we could do nothing for them, just being talked to and knowing that they were important to us was enough for them to leave with not only a smile on their face, but with many kind words. This exemplifies the importance of the patient - doctor relationship, as opposed to solely the medicinal side of medicine that a doctor can offer. In many cases, it is not the medication alone that can have the biggest outcome on a patient’s health and well-being, but it is the relationship that is built with them that is the most important to their health. This trip has been a wonderful experience and I cannot wait to share all the amazing stories and things that I have learned while on this trip with my friends and family, and I look forward to using the things that I have learned as I continue on my path to becoming a physician.

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