Mercer On Mission

2016 Blog

This blog is made and updated by Mercer undergrads. Throughout our time in Honduras, students from the various disciplines will write about their experiences serving. 

My Favorite hello and hardest good bye

Today, I was able to see my family for what has seemed like a lifetime ago in which I was waving goodbye as I embarked on this wonderful adventure. Today, I felt the most happy and the most heartbroken. The thought of not returning to the villages for yet another week of clinic had not yet solidified until we had reached the airport in San Pedro Sula. As we departed from the airport, flying nearly 430 mph over the beautiful country of Honduras, I could not help to feel like I had left something behind. Although my checked luggage did not exceed the weight limit, It had felt like my heart did.
We never expect a good bye to be truly the last time that you will see someone, it is more so regarded as a "see you later", rather then a once in a lifetime encounter. As we were furthering the distance from honduras in our flight and getting closer to being home, I realized that what I left behind in country was not an inanimate object, but a piece of my heart. Yes, our team served 1,450 patients in one of the most dangerous countries in the world, but the only danger I found myself in was that my heart was stolen by the people of Honduras. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we were all ready to go home (but that did not necessarily mean that some of us didn't want to stay at the same time). Today, I was not only saying good bye to the people of honduras, but the wonderful souls that embarked on this trip with me. We all were touched in some way by the patients and the sponsors that we had met throughout this trip, but I personally was touched by the students and faculty that I now consider family.  My good bye was not only to the patients, but to the experiences, to my friends, and to the family that was fostered through Mercer on Mission.
I will never forget the lives I have touched, and the ones that equally have touched me as well. I will never forget the blessings I have received and the humility that I have gained. I am glad to be home with my family, but I hold a heavy heart for the good byes that I had to say to Honduras and to my M.o.M. family. As we depart on our own journeys know that this shared experience was infinitely breathtaking. May the knowledge and experiences obtained on this trip be used to spread the awe-inspiring medical care in your future endeavors,

Sarah Abney - Spanish Interpreter

The Privilege of a Hot Shower

I have completely underestimated my ability to take a cold shower, because the showers here have one setting: freezing cold. After a long day of work in a clinic, most people were thankful for the showers ability to cool them down from the Honduran heat. I personally missed having a hot shower and was immensely grateful to have one today. This moment made me think of something I had never considered in the states: having a hot shower is a true privilege. 

Most people in Honduras work in the heat all day and come home to houses with no AC, windows, or sometimes even doors. These homes also do not always have running water. A shower, hot or cold, is a privilege, which is something I realized as I saw a woman wash herself using a bucket from a barrel of stagnant water outside her house. One woman told us of how she used to take up to 4 cold showers a day to keep from overheating, but now, with the current drought, she could barely take one. Even if someone can take showers, most people don't want to use heated water due to the climate or can't afford to have a water heater.

Everyday here in Honduras continues to remind me how privileged that I have been throughout my life. What I expect in the states (hot showers, clean water, ice, air conditioning), is  a luxury that some people may never know here in Honduras. In the future when I am taking my hot showers or using water from a sink, I will no longer see these as something to expect, but instead I will know them for what they are: a privilege I was blessed enough to have been given. 

Brooke Barker- undergraduate interpreter

Last Day of Clinic

Today was the last day of clinic, and I believe Mother Teresa said it best, " Not all of us can do great things, only small things with great love." Small things are important: smiles, hugs, shared laughs, kisses on cheeks and a little extra time spent listening to a patient tell their story. These little things aren't exactly the things we plan on doing when we come on a trip like this-we plan on the great things: helping people better their lives, healing people of their illnesses, and seeing lots of patients and filling lots of prescriptions...but once we get here we realize that it's the little unplanned things that make the biggest difference in the end. I've been on my fair share of medical mission trips, but this is my first time acting as (almost) doctor and seeing my own patients. It is a humbling experience to sit across from a person whom I have never met telling me all about their random, seemingly unrelated medical problems; and then when they are finished they ask ME for help. For example, Honduran women are extremely shy and uncomfortable talking about feminine medical problems- things they feel they can't share with anyone- and they shared them with me. Learning intimate details about people's lives is an honor that we as physicians must not take lightly. These past two weeks were filled with many moments of discouragement, as there were many patients that we were not equipped to help; but for every moment of discouragement there were many more moments of joy. I'll choose to focus on the joyful moments: the patient who had a pterygium on his eye and needed eye protection from the sun and dust- we had one pair of sunglasses just for him; the patient with debilitating osteoarthritis who had never taken ibuprofen before and thought it was a miracle drug; the mothers who desperately wanted vitamins for their children that we were able to provide...to me these were all small things, but to my patients they were great things. The frustrating moments teach me that I can not help everyone, nor am I expected to; the joyful moments keep me filled with a desire to serve people who otherwise wouldn't be able to help themselves.  It's a beautiful journey, and I can't wait for the next adventure. 

Luke 12:48 For everyone to whom much is given, much is required.

Lauren- Medical student

Press in San Agustin

On the last day in San Agustin, we had a small group of press around the clinic. There was a photographer taking pictures of all the stations and a small news group. I had the amazing opportunity of being Dr. House's interpreter during a short press conference and interview. The community seemed to be very pleased and happy to have us in Honduras. We were gladly able to mention that we had seen over 1000 patients. 

Personally, it was a great interpreting experience (national Honduras news!). I felt nervous about possibly messing up, but I honestly felt as if I did a good job and it gave me a boost of confidence in my spanish. I feel as though we left a positive image and representation of Mercer University in Honduras, and I am happy to have been able to portray that as well. 

Jeanette, Undergrad Interpreter 

Comprender Otra Manera de Vida

Antes de Mercer on Mission, no había tenido la oportunidad de conocer comunidades tan empobrecidas. He sido ciega de mi privilegio y he dado por hecho las oportunidades y lujos que yo tengo. Siempre he intentado ser consciente de la pobreza y disigualdad del mundo. Pero, es difícil entender en verdad las situaciones de otra gente sin una experiencia directa con sus maneras de vida. Esta viaje ha abierto mis ojos a las disparidades en salud y desorrollo social en áreas desamparadas. Espero que esta experiencia vaya a ayudarme a ser una persona más humilde y comprensiva. Quiero ser una médica un día que pueda tener una relación con mis pacientes. Ojalá que yo vaya a comprender una variedad de gente de caminos diversos de vida.   Nunca he pensado dos veces en mi capacidad de cepillarme los dientes y tener agua limpia cada día. Me encontré con una niño que tenía no más de 6 años y ya tenía casi 6 dientes podridas. Él estuvo chupando un piroleta y estoy segura que él no se cepilla los dientes como él debería. Pienso que este problema está causado por una falta de educación de salud y recursos. Deseo que ellos van a tomarse a pecho nuestras charlas para mejorar su salud.  Cuando visitamos el Hospital, estuve tan soprendida al oir que ellos no tienen acesso a una cantidad suficiente de agua limpia para los pacientes. Incluso cuando ellos obtienen aguas subterráneas desde un pozo, la agua estuvo contaminada. Los hondureños no pueden beber agua siquiera a menos que está en botella, el cual cuesta dinero y toma tiempo para ir a un mercado para comprarla. Una de los pueblos que visitamos, San Agustín, fue una viaje de casi 40 minutos por un camino de grava fuera de una ciudad. No puedo imaginar lo difícil que es obtener algunos artículos básicos mientras de ser tan aislado, especialmente si alguien no tiene un vehículo o medio de transporte.

Before Mercer on Mission, I never had the opportunity to encounter very impoverished communities. I have been blind of my privilege and have taken for granted the opportunities and luxuries that I have. I have always tried to be conscience of the poverty and inequality of the world. But, it is difficult to truly understand the situations of other people without a direct experience with their ways of life. This trip has opened my eyes to the disparities in health and social development in underprivileged areas.I hope this experience will help me be a more humble and understanding person. One day, I want to be a doctor that can have a relationship with my patients. I hope that I will understand a variety of people from diverse walks of life. I had never thought twice about my ability to brush my teeth and have clean water every day. I met a young boy who was no older than 6 years old that already had about 6 rotten teeth. I think that this problem is caused by a lack of education and resources. I hope that they take our educative talks to heart in order to better their health. When we visited the hospital, I was very surprised to hear that they do not have access to a sufficient amount of clean water for the patients. Even when they obtained the ground water from a well, it was polluted. The Hondurans can not even drink water unless it is bottled, which costs money and takes time to go to the market to buy it. One of the towns we visited, San Agustín, was about a 40 minute trip on a gravel road away from a city. I cannot imagine how difficult it is to obtain some basic necessities while being so isolated, especially if someone does not have a vehicle or means of transportation. 

-- Morgan Leslie, Undergraduate Interpreter 

Hola World!

This blog post marks the 12th day of our journey in Honduras. This experience has been one full of learning, growth and my personal favorite Spanglish. For those of you who may not know me, English has never been my best subject matter and hence the partial reason I ended up in the sciences. When you couple that with a few years of college prep Spanish you can create a beautiful mix of vocabulary that is sure to delight. Just yesterday I had two run-ins with the international grammar police that would surely make my past grade school teachers cringe in horror.


Having now been a small part of seeing over 1,000 patients, I felt like it was about time to step out and try to be my own interpreter. After all I had asked, via my interpreting friends, every coughing nino and nina to open their mouth (abra la boca) and stick out their tongues (saca la lengua) in order to check their throat. The process was simple as I would give a statement in English and the patient would magically do what I asked most of the times. So there I was eye to eye with my 6-year-old Spanish-speaking counterpart/patient ready to make to the leap from English to Spanish knowing full well that I was probably going to land somewhere in the land of Spanglish. As I pulled out my penlight and mentally debated on which of the two phrases to say first… I knew I had a 50% chance of guessing correctly, but then again I was never that good a luck. I then turned to my pequeno patient and recited “saca la lengua” and found the kid smiling and playfully sticking his tongue out at me instead of opening his mouth. At that point I joined the party that everyone else in the circle was already attending, that my Spanish was more for comic relief than practicality.


The fun that day did not end with that previous encounter though, as there was still a highly anticipated futbol match to be played after clinic. After finishing up my last patient I was greeted by the local futbol players ready to play. This game was going to be the real deal, so when it came time to pick teams we went old school and lined up with two captains. With each captain probably around eight years old and three foot two inches it probably should come as no surprise that my nickname quickly became monstruo, also known as giant to some people. My team started the game out strong and we had what I thought was an impenetrable defensive alignment until the first attack by the opposing team. I was too far away to help thwart the onslaught so I did what I could and yelled for my team to “espalda, espalda”. The Spanish word was one I learned this week in clinic. Espalda is the Spanish medical term for the English word of “back” when asking about issues such as lower back pain. This however does not directly translate to something similar to retreat unfortunately and my team not only became confused by my tactics but also gave up the go ahead gooooaaaallllll! In the end we had some great laughs with my new friends, which was well worth the price of admission despite it being my Spanish ego. 

Jacob, Medical Student

The Life-Changing Experience That I Would Never Forget

This is the last week of the trip and I can truly say this experience has definitely been an eye opener for me in terms of global awareness, the lack of resources and the many mental health/ physical health atrocities that occur here in Honduras.

 As a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) student I was working with children for the first week. From Monday to Thursday, my fellow colleges and i would go to a small school  in Honduras where we would do icebreakers with the children, and had group sessions with 5th through 9th graders where we talked about self esteem, domestic violence, drugs, leadership and bullying. Even though at first the chidden did not open up, as we continued coming the children became more talkative about their home lives. It was heartbreaking hearing 10 year olds talk about abuse in their family, sexual trauma, and being left alone for days on end. Although Ive interned at DEFACS and i am aware  of intstances similar to these, these stories were especially heartbreaking because the children did not have the same resources available in America. Even though I was able to give the children self- coping skills and directed them to the counselor of the school I felt as if it was not enough because I could not remove them from the horrific situations they were in due to the culture here.

For the second week i have been working with the other disciplines ( pharmacy students, nursing students, medical students, and undergraduates) in a small clinic in LuFussa where I have been doing vital signs on clients, intake, and counseling. As a second year MFT student I am fairly comfortable with the counseling aspect of the clinic but the medical side was a completely new experience. I was excited to learn how to correctly check individual's vitals, learn how to manually check a blood pressure and learn about different diseases that families in Honduras face. An interesting clinical story i have heard so far was a man who came and  stated that he had a animal/ bug in his ear. it turned out he had a little roach in his ear that had been there for a month.  Back home you wouldn't here instances that intense. If someone thought they had something in their ear they would go to the hospital as soon as possible.

This experience truly as taught me a lot about global issues and what it really looks like to be improvised. Prior to this experience my idea of improvised was living in the projects or even being homeless but in my opinion  a lot  of the homeless in america have it better then the families here. At least in America there are shelters, clean water ( except for maybe Flint Michigan)assess to health care and low-cost and/ or free mental health facilities.

Sharita, MFT

Clinic Day 7

Today was our seventh clinic day of nine and our second trip to to a mountainous village about an hour and a half away from the place where we've been staying.  We will make one more trip back to this location tomorrow.  The village is most certainly the most remote place we have worked so far and many of the residents rarely, if ever, see a physician.  We're running clinic out of a small school building and have seen mostly the children that attend the school.  Interesting, it seems a stomach virus has been making its way through the community, and we've seen loads of little children with diarrhea and stomach aches.

We surpassed the 1,000 patient mark today, and in typical American fashion we had to award that lucky patient a goodie-bag full of shampoo, soap, toothpaste, and the likes.  We've also filled upwards of 2,600 prescriptions at this point.  Obviously, with these numbers we've been very busy.  I believe everyone has figured out the system and it seems to be running like a well oiled machine.  Amazing, everyone has maintain a great attitude.  Everyone continues to get along and work hard.  It's truly been a pleasure to work with and get to know the people here with me.
With the daily report out of the way, I'd like to reflect for just a bit.  I saw a family of four today: single mom, two little boys, and an oldest sister (8 years old).  None of the children were bad sick, just typical runny noses and cough, the normal stuff just like at home.  One  of the mother's concerns was that the little girl (the only child old enough for school) frequently drank unclean water at school despite her mother's reminder not to do so.  She had battled several episodes of intestinal infections due to this.  The mother explained that clean water was too expensive for her to provide for all of her children.  The daughter's facial expression showed that she well understood the situation.  I realized that I had a bottle of water that was about 3/4 full sitting beside me and I offer it to the little girl saying it certainly wouldn't last long, but she could have it.  (I don't share to pat myself on the back because the water certainly was of not special value to me.  We had a whole cooler full of water I could drink at any time.)  The little girl immediately smiled and after taking the bottle wrapped her arms around my neck.  It was by far the largest displace of sincere gratitude I have seen in two weeks.  I didn't think too much about it at the time, but after clinic I couldn't help but realize how spoiled I am.  We're all extremely lucky to have the comforts that we have back home and even more blessed to be able to be here doing what we're doing.  As cliche as this example may be ( I realize that it is), I hope it can remind us all to be thankful.  We're all very blessed.
Michael, Medical Student

last week at the ranch

Hi blog followers!! Last week at the ranch we didn't get to blog for you because we had some trouble with the wifi so here's the catch up. I'm not going to talk about a specific day but rather a specific small group that I had on the first day we visited the schools. The MFTs had a separate location that we visited the first week on Rancho Paraiso where we got to work with the school age children at the HOI schools on a variety of mental health topics. The first day we were mainly working on joining with the kids and learning about any stressors they might have in their home lives. The first group I got to work with started out very light with a discussion around how many people are in their family and live in their house. Truthfully, I hadn't planned on taking the subject very deep the first day because I was still getting to know the kids. However, one children said that her family was broken because her father had left when she was very young to go work in the United States and it had made her sad because she hasn't seen him in many years. This story prompted another little boy to say that his father also had left to work in the United States 3 years ago and that he missed him a lot. The little boy even began to cry when he was telling his story. I've found through talking to these kids that separated families such as these two are common here. It's interesting seeing the different family dynamics here as compared to what we usually see in the clinic at Mercer. Thanks! Chrystal McDowell MFT

Hope for Honduras

One week from today, we will be back in the United States. These past nine days, we have had the opportunity to serve some of the poorest communities of Honduras. Reflecting on the past week, I can't help but be amazed at all our team has accomplished. No doubt we have truly made a difference this week. As of today, our team has seen just under 1,000 patients and filled over 2,000 prescriptions. However, sometimes I find myself wondering how long our presence will affect these people. Have we truly made a difference? Or have we only provided a short-term fix? 

Coming to a third world country. I expected there to be health disparities. I never imagined they would be so severe here in Honduras. Although people have access to doctors, most don't have access to a pharmacy with the medicines they need. Even if they do have access to doctors and a pharmacy, many people cannot afford their medicines. That is part of what we do here while on Mercer on A Mission. We provide the people access to medicine. But, we do more than that...

In my opinion, the most important thing Mercer on A Mission does for these communities is provide them with hope. Hope for a future. We provide hope through the doctors, nurses, pharmacists, pre-med students, global health students, and Marriage and Family Therapists. We provide hope through the medicine we provide. We provide hope through simply listening. We provide hope through education. Lastly, we can provide hope through prayer. For that, I think the people here are grateful. Hope is definitely not short-term and that is something I think they Hondurans can hold onto long after were gone. And for that, I feel very proud to be a part of this team. 

Sidney, Nursing  

A Week in Paradise

I am a city girl. I like malls, concerts, and movies. I enjoy my Internet and Netflix bingeing. I enjoy high heels, Sephora, and shows at the Fox Theatre. And most importantly: I hate bugs. 

With that being said, I have truly enjoyed my time at Rancho El Paraiso. I was, for the most part, disconnected with the world in a way that made me realize it really is the simple things in life that matter most. I have a tendency to place great emphasis on the unimportant parts of my life while neglecting or not appreciating the time spent with family and friends, having clean water and electricity, living in a safe environment, etc. I saw so many smiling and appreciative people that I had to take quite a few moments to reflect about myself and my values. 

One of the things I heard that impacted me the most was the children I interacted with referring to their school as "the most beautiful school in the community." I was stunned. In America, beautiful schools usually mean massive, brand new buildings with the latest computers, artwork, auditoriums, and stadiums. Here, the library is a one room building with a painting of a tree on one wall, windows, zero air conditioning, and about 4 bookshelves. The bathrooms don't have stalls with doors and you can't flush the tissue. The classrooms have bars instead of full walls or windows. The auditorium is more like a patio with a covering and plastic chairs from the classrooms. The soccer field has dead, brown grass. 

And it is beautiful.  

It was paradise. 

Because that is what the children and the parents and the teachers turned that school and the surrounding town into. Their gratitude and optimism are to be admired. They are admired. By me, anyway. I went into this school thinking that I would be teaching these Honduran people coping skills for managing stress, teaching about drugs and alcohol, and discussing violence in the community. And I did do all of those things and more. 

But what they taught me was greater than anything that I could have ever taught them. I learned from them that paradise is all about perspective. It isn't a destination. It isn't a thing to be purchased. Paradise is in your friends. It is in your family. It is in your school. Paradise is in your heart. And that is a lesson I am thankful to have learned.

Toiya, Marriage & Family Therapy 

P.S.: I can still live without bugs in my life. No amount of time at a ranch will change that. :) 

R and R

What are some words that come to mind when you think of the term "developing nations?" Poor? Dirty? Disease? Well, you're not wrong. We have been surrounded by these conditions everyday. We have treated people who know nothing other than mud and sweat. We have held hands with black lined finger nails. We have picked up feet to examine decaying toe nails. We have talked to adults with four teeth and children with teeth that are quickly beginning to rot and fall out. You would expect this to be typical of a developing nation, would you not? Now ask me. What are some words that come to my mind when I think of the term "developing nations?" Gratitude. Trust. Beauty. Love. 

Let's start with gratitude. Every patient I have encountered has thanked me, either by a simple smile and wave, a handshake, a hug, or a kiss on the cheek. Every person who walks out the door after being seen, has received personal attention from multiple people on our team. In intake, we listen to their story. In vitals, we focus all our attention on them and physically interact with them in order to assess their base line health. The providers take the time to puzzle through their complaints and determine how to treat them with care and concern. In the pharmacy, patients are looked in the eyes and explained how they are to care for themselves with the medicines they receive. In education, they are taught how to lessen or prevent common diseases in order to save them from future illnesses. When the patients step out of the clinic, they have been holistically taken care of and they could not be more thankful. 

 Trust. These people trust us. They are willing to sit and let us pick up their arms and hands without blinking an eye because they believe we are here to heal and not harm them. They graciously accept the medicines we give them and do not question the medical students' judgement. They follow the arm movements of our team without batting an eye and trust that they are being led in the right direction without any words in Spanish to help. They trust that we would never lead them astray. 

 Beauty. We are enveloped by mountains here. I cannot sit in the bus without looking out the window to stare at the same mountains we pass everyday. It's a breathtaking view and it's in the middle of a country where the people struggle to find clean water. Amongst all this poverty, is beauty. We got to experience the beauty of Honduras today when we traveled to the ocean. Everyone was amazed by the luscious green island combined with churning waters, distant mountains and fishing boats. This picture perfect scenery is no more than thirty minutes away from the poor villages we have been serving this past week. It truly is beauty in destruction. 

 Love. The love of the people here is evident by their actions and smiling faces. Sure, we are guarded by men with machine guns just in case something happens, but the patients would never think to harm the people they are entrusting their health to. I think the most evident love that is in this country is their love of God. Our church visit last Sunday was revitalizing. We were able to feel their love radiating throughout the room, and personally, that love and faith and spirit I witnessed there has carried me through this entire week. If these people who have nearly nothing to call their own can love God so much, why do people who have everything they have ever needed and wanted struggle? I think we can all learn from the people of this beautiful country and focus not on the material aspect of this world, but the aspects that reflect God: gratitude, trust, beauty and love.
Taylor, undergrad

Hospital Tour

Today we left the compound we've been staying at for some much needed R&R this weekend. We have the privilege of being able to stay at a nice hotel tonight and go sight seeing tomorrow. Before checking into the hotel we're staying at tonight though, we visited the public hospital that serves the state we are in. 

The hospital compound was large with a bright yellow building as its entrance. We were given a tour by the medical director who was also an epidemiologist. He graciously allowed us to see the maternity wing and talked to us about the hospital's involvement in the community. It is the only public hospital in the state, and they usually see over 100,000 patients in a year. 

However, they only have around 150 beds for inpatients. You could tell the medical director really cared about his hospital and its patients. He told us several times how they serve as many people as possible but a lot of times they simply don't have the space or resources. After a week of clinics and seeing the hospital, I am so glad we have been given the opportunity to serve these amazing people and help as much as we can. 

Mackenzie, Undergrad

Clinic Day 5 Complete!

After an evening of heavy rain and thunderstorms our team departed early traveling a bit further south to serve a new village. After a week of severing the villages in the area surrounding our sponsor we were excited to see what today had in store for us and motivated by the welcomed “cooler” weather.


We were greeted with a new mode of transportation today, special treat – AC! This made our trip (that was a bit further today) quite enjoyable. We could even see the remaining low lying clouds over the mountains. It was beautiful.


Upon arrival to the village we traveled quite some ways (stopping a time or two for clarification) to their school grounds that where already lined with patients anxiously awaiting our arrival. There were the typical children surrounding the bus ensuring us a warm welcome. After the leaders of the community lead us in a beautiful prayer and thanked us for our service we were off to work! By this time we have the clinic positions down pat, however today proved to be challenging as we integrated local doctors, nurses, and high school students into our team.


It did not take long to realize the health disparities in this community were slightly different than that of the previous villages. We saw conditions that were less common than in other villages and this definitely kept us on our toes. However irrespective of the country the basic needs do not change.


I now value the amount of patient education that is a part of our curriculum more than ever. If we wish to truly make a change in anyone’s life we must start at the source. In order to sustain the change we hope to make we must instill knowledge. Change ones belief will be what is left when the medications are gone, the wounds have healed and we are merely memories of what once was.


"The King will reply,'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

Matthew 25:40


Elizabeth, Nursing

Youth in Honduras

Today I found myself working in the education room of our fifth clinic day, where I had the chance to hear some high school students from Choluteca present various public heath topics to the community. I was amazed by how much these students knew and how well they carried a conversation about rather sensitive topics. Their knowledge of these common diseases was impressive and the way with which they connected to the community members was something only a native could do. You could tell they each felt a sense of empowerment in improving the well-being of each patient we saw today. 

In between sessions, I had a chance to speak with some of the students about their presence in the clinic. They lived miles away but chose to speak with this community because of its reputation for being one of the poorer communities in Honduras. A few of them had aspirations of working as Public Health workers in the future and one even wished to study medicine. I'm not sure what motivated me to write about these students today, but I suppose in some ways we both have a similar motive: to better the lives of those around us. 

In some ways I know that my time spent in Honduras and the effort that I provide in bettering the lives of the few patients I meet will be very short-lived, but seeing these students work for the benefit of these community members and for their education is something that I know that will last much longer. It is a comfort to know that so many Honduran community members are tackling the same issues we hope to treat. I can only be hopeful that this pattern of altruism will continue in the years to come. Here's to the future of Honduras and those that will help it get there. 

Lizzy, Medical Student

How can you feel hopelessness with an accomplsihment?

I have been in Honduras for almost a week now and today was clinic day #4! Before coming to Honduras, I thought the most challenging clinic day would be day #1, but I was sadly mistaken. Today was by far the most challenging day for me. It wasn't the request by the plant workers to cure them of their health problems or the fact that the plant workers didn't wear protective gear while working in contaminated air, it was one plant worker's response to my question with a statement that I didn't know how to respond to. 

One male plant worker stated to me that he knew smoking cigarettes was bad for him but he continued to smoke because he was going to die from something one day, so why should he quit smoking. The surprising part was that he was in his 70s and he did not have hypertension. Usually, I would relate the cause of high blood pressure to smoking, but I couldn't do that in this case. His lifestyle didn't match his clinical presentation, and I was dumbfounded as to how to educate this man in way that would make a difference in his life. I knew that statement he made was right in some respects, but I also knew after hearing the statement he made that it was extremely important for me to educate him on the effects of smoking cigarettes, even if he didn't have hypertension. All I could think to tell him is that it was important for him to live a life of optimal health, but I didn't know what reason to give him since he already knew smoking was bad. I had to sit there for a minute and watch Lauren W., the medical school student, assess him and ask him further questions about his clinical problems. During this time I thought about ways to get my message across to him. Then a lightbulb went off and it hit me! I asked him why he felt the need to smoke when he already knows it is bad for his health. This is when the plant worker revealed that he was stressed about his home life. He lived with his wife and mother-in-law. His only child, a daughter, was married and caring for her own family. His wife had fibromyalgia and his mother-in-law was dying from Alzheimer's. He stated he is always anxious about getting a phone call letting him know his mother-in-law passed away because he knows how devastated his wife will be. Smoking was his outlet!
Although I wanted him to just stop smoking 8 cigarettes a day, I knew I needed to help him make a success plan to quit smoking. I knew I just needed to meet him half way! He previously mentioned that he tried to quit smoking before, but he was unsuccessful. So, I asked him if he thought he could just smoke 5 cigarettes a day. He said yes! I was so thrilled that he actually agreed to the "compromise" that I started clapping. After I regained my composure, I told him that he should decrease over time the number of cigarettes he smokes a day. This would help him successfully quit smoking instead of him trying to do it cold turkey. He said that sounded way better and he thought he could do it. I also took the time to relate cigarette smoking to his life expectancy. I told him he needs to stop smoking so he can be around to help his wife because she is going to really need him. 
This plant worker was bringing the stress from his home life to work with him everyday. His situation reminded me of the video we watched in Macon about the different internal issues all people deal with on a daily basis. I also felt this man would be a good candidate to speak to one of the MFTs, but unfortunately they are still at the ranch. I told him that I was going to pray for him and his family. He thanked me and Lauren and as he walked away, I felt a sense of accomplishment and hopelessness. I felt accomplish that I was able to help him create a plan to quit smoking, but I felt hopeless that I could not help relieve the stressed caused by his family dynamics. 

Christina, Nursing Student

Challenges and Challengers

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         Today (clinic day 4) definitely was our most logistically challenging day so far. We started by opening up a clinic in the cafeteria where we normally eat lunch and dinner. The number of Lafoussa workers that came in for about two and a half hours were more than we had expected or prepared for, so by the time we wrapped up in the cafeteria we were supposed to already be seeing patients at our next clinic site. But that's just the nature of serving in another country- Your plans are great and all, but they're rarely (if ever) reality. 

         Once we started setting up in the pre-existing clinic that would be our workspace, we realized just how little room we had to work with. Tiny rooms and narrow hallways compounded with the crowd of people already lining the walls waiting to be seen caused us to quickly reevaluate our flow plan. Intake and vitals, previously separated to maximize efficiency, were merged into two crowded rooms with barely enough room for the patients and room to write. The rest of the day involved moving translators here, taking blood pressures there, and always being on the lookout for the ultimate evil- a medical school student who isn't seeing a patient. During a lull in patients ready to be seen I jokingly told one of the medical school students that I made it my job to make sure that they never had a break, and he responded "Well, you're doing a terrible job!" 

Fortunately we caught up and pretty soon there was a line waiting to see the providers and I sighed of relief. This was in large part due to the Honduran volunteers learning how to best coordinate people such that I quickly realized I wasn't needed and could focus my attention elsewhere (when I wasn't teaching a kid or two how to brush their teeth!). In the afternoon I went back to that swamped medical student and we joked about how I was doing a MUCH better job!

Overall, it was a chaotic day, but I came to terms with the dynamic between our short term medical treatment that paves the way for long term capacity building that HOI will continue doing long after we land back in the States. For the sake of the future of this community and the work of HOI, I'd gladly take another challenging day like this one was! ... And that may be tomorrow!

-Andrew (Undergraduate)

Where Two Worlds Become One

The past three days of clinic have been nothing short of wonderful. As a team, we've already treated over 400 patients and formed bonds with our peers that will probably last for a lifetime. We haven't only formed bonds with our peers, but with the patients we met and the kids that we encountered as well.

One bond stood out to me in particular. As we were wrapping up the day in Guanacastillo on Monday, our very first day of clinics, I spotted a young boy wearing a FC Barcelona jersey from afar. For those of you who don't already know about FC Barcelona: they're a soccer team that pretty much everyone knows about. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone - myself included. As a fellow FC Barcelona fan, I saw this as a perfect opportunity for conversation and decided to go up to the young boy and talk to him a bit about the team (by the way, FC Barcelona fans love talking about FC Barcelona whenever they get they chance). I learned that the young boy, Javier, is 12 years old and that his favorite soccer player is Lionel Messi. His friends approached us when they saw me talking to him and also started talking to me about their favorite soccer players. In the middle of our conversation, I paused suddenly and told them that I would be right back. I left and went to go find Sarah, and told her that I wanted a soccer ball that I could give to Javier. Javier was thrilled when I presented the ball to him and told him that it was his to keep and share with his friends, and he was even more thrilled when I asked him if he wanted to play together before I left. We found an area of the clinic that was relatively clear of rocks and started passing the ball back and forth to each other, and then slowly, others trickled in to play. Before I knew it, I was playing soccer not only with Javier, but with his friends, their friends, and some students from our Mercer on Mission team. For the few minutes that we all played together, it was as if we didn't come from entirely different backgrounds - it felt as though we were one. At that moment in time, we were simply a group of people who shared a common love for soccer, and it was that love that allowed me to have the opportunity to talk to Javier and allowed all of us to get to play together. I can't think of a better way to describe how that felt other than beautiful. Everything about it - playing together, laughing together, and talking to each other was simply beautiful, and soccer was what allowed that to happen. There's a reason why soccer is called "the beautiful game", and I learned exactly why that day. 

-Zayna, Interpreter

Nicaragua for Xarelto?

Today I started off in the Intake station, where I checked in patients, gathered medication history, and pinpointed their chief complaint. Of course as a pharmacy student, I was very focused on what medications they reported taking although most people only stated Amoxicillin or Acetaminophen. One particular patient really surprised me when he took out 5 medication packets from his pocket: my first 'brown bag' experience! I was even more surprised when he had a variety of cardiac medications such as Amiodarone, Bisoprolol, and Xarelto. These medications are far more complicated and much more costly than any medications we have stocked in our pharmacy or that I had seen people on so far. After discussing with him further, I found out that this 85 year old man walks to Nicaragua every so often to refill his medications because it is so much cheaper there. This really hit home for me, because this man has more than just aches and pains. He has a heart condition that needs much more medication than he can get in his community of Pavana. It definitely shows me how much we take for granted in the United States. While drugs like Xarelto are very pricey in the US as well, we do have other options including prescription coverage from insurance plans, coupon cards from manufacturers, and patient assistance programs. In the small community of Pavana, there were no options but for him to walk the 20 miles or so to Nicaragua to receive the medications at an affordable price. I hope that one day the people of Honduras will receive better care and have more options for their own healthcare.

Eryn, Pharmacy Student

May 24th: The Inside Scoop on Clinics (Day 2)

Today was our second day of clinics in Guanacastillo! And I can honestly say today was much better than yesterday. We worked out a lot of the kinks and learned how to better work together in as an interdisciplinary team. It's been great seeing how we need each other to provide the best service we can.

I had the pleasure of working with Lauren D in the clinics, both yesterday and today. We had it down to a science today. We gave ourselves pep talks and started the day with a bang. Two patients that we had seen yesterday, and referred to come back to the clinic today, were there right when clinic opened! I also got the chance to go with Dr. House and Sidney on a house call to an elderly woman who had dementia and had a bad wound on her face. Walking through the town to her house was a humbling experience. Seeing her house falling apart and the conditions she lived in gave me so much to be thankful for. I am so grateful that we have the chance to bring the care that we can even if sometimes it's not what we wish we could provide. 

We came back to the clinic; I rejoined Lauren and we went to work. We somehow always got the large families and dealt with 5-6 patients at a time. It was cool to watch Lauren and to also have the chance to learn a lot from her. Because she has great Spanish skills, we were almost able to "tag-team" most of the patients. I learned a lot about being a provider and the type of questions to ask and how to draw a differential diagnosis. A good bit of the time I was able to think about what the symptoms were causing and draw conclusions on what I thought should be done for treatment. I even got the chance to listen to patient's heartbeats and lungs! It really opened my eyes to the possibility of being a doctor even though I’ve shielded myself from the idea for so long. 

& even more than those awesome experiences, I had the chance to translate/interpret on the Honduran news! A group of men from a local Choluteca news station came to interview a few of the students on our team. I had the privilege (a very NERVOUS one) of translating for Sidney and Dr. House as we were all asked questions about our team and what kind of help we were bringing to the people. It was a very interesting experience and one that I think ultimately helped me get over my fear of speaking Spanish to other people. There’s no telling how many people are going to hear my translation now haha. 

I can’t believe that this is only our second day of clinics and I’ve already experienced so much. There are so many days to come and so many wonderful things to experience. I look forward to my day in the pharmacy and continuing to work and learn alongside the wonderful Mercer Med Students! 

- Nicole, Undergrad Interpreter

Day 1 of clinic- We did it!

Today was our first day in clinic and I think that it went really well!  When we arrived to the school this morning everyone kicked right into gear and began helping to set up each station needed for the day.  A few of the children of the community prepared a dance that they performed for us at the start of the clinic.  Each student was given an assignment the night before on what station they would be at in the morning and then in the afternoon.  I was assigned to intake first and I loved this station.  I was able to interact with so many patients and each one was so incredibly grateful to have us in their community.  My interpreter was a life saver when it came to talking to the patients (she even tried to teach me a few new phrases along the way.)  My afternoon station was in the pharmacy.  While in the pharmacy I was able to fill several prescription for patients that I had seen during intake.  It was fun and interesting to be able to see the end diagnosis and prescription for these patients.  I, of course, told everyone "hola" and "gracias" because these are the main spanish words that I am confident in what I am saying.  After clinic we came back to where we are staying and everyone began working together again and packing all the meds to replenish what we used today.  I am looking forward to visiting this community again tomorrow and being able to see some familiar faces (especially of the children).  Our team has already started working so well together and I am looking forward to seeing what else we can do in this community.  I am also looking forward to all of the tips and fun facts that we have and will continue to learn from each other as we work as an interdisciplinary team!

- Emily (Pharmacy)  

A Whirlwind of a Clinic Day!

Greetings loyal MoM Honduras followers! (Hi mom). Today was our first day of clinic in Guanacastillo. We worked with healthcare providers and volunteers from the community to help over 180 people. Going into the day, I knew there were many people to see, but I did not fully grasp the extent of the community's need for health care until I actually started seeing patients and hearing their stories. There's a saying that doctors like to tell their medical students and interns: if you hear hoof beats, it's probably a horse. Like many of my fellow medical students, I had to put aside my desire to find "zebras" knowing that there would be little we could do even if we were able to identify a rare disease or illness. As it turns out, common diseases are common... I saw mostly URIs, UTIs, hypertension, and diabetes (with the occasional zebra just to keep things interesting!). What resonated with me most, however, was how appreciative the people we saw were and how willing they were to share small pieces of their lives with me. I still have a long way to go, but if everyday is like today, I know I will leave Honduras a better clinician than when I arrived.

-Lauren, medicine

First Sunday

Today is Sunday. And like a lot of Americans, Sundays in Honduras mean going to church. We were fortunate to have one of the local communities invite us to join them in their church service. As we pulled up, everyone lined the steps and welcomed us with big smiles and warm hearts. The service was simple: a few songs and prayers in Spanish and a short message from a translator. Simple, but still moving. Having grown up in church my whole life, I found the service very refreshing. Even though I didn't know most of what was said, I could still see their passion, the same passion I see in churches back home. It was very humbling to be reminded that the world, and even my own faith, is much bigger than I realize. Here is a community of people with different customs, culture, and language, who have welcomed us so warmly, serving the same God, praying the same prayers as me and my family. As clinicians, all too often we see our patients as nothing more than their disease, but I was reminded today that, despite differences in culture or background, each patient is a person, complete with their own emotions, opinions, and beliefs. And it's that commonality that keeps us holding on, that drives the compassion in our hearts. As we step into the clinics this week, we won't be treating just a stranger in a foreign country. In a way, we will be treating ourselves, for we are all the same. Even in the mountains of Honduras.

-Avery, Pharmacy

Prep Week of Class

Classes began for the majority of the students on our team on Monday, May 16. The medical students will join us on Thursday May 19, and we will wrap up our pre-trip classes on Friday, May 20. Monday through Wednesday we jumped in to the academic coursework for the program. Thursday we will be trained in clinical skills such as taking someone's blood pressure and using a stethoscope. Friday we finish up, take a group picture, and pack the remaining supplies. We leave bright and early Saturday morning for our adventure in Honduras.

We have learned about various topics this week including the demographics of our country, the language, the burden of disease we will see, cultural awareness, and how to recognize more than just physical symptoms. In the mornings, the whole team stays together and learns about broader issues that we will witness and handle in our country. In the afternoons, we split up into smaller groups to learn more about our specific roles. The interpreters work on their medical Spanish with the Spanish faculty member, and the nursing students and undergrad students learn about public health involvement in a community. The pharmacy students and MFT (Marriage and Family Therapy) students also split into their own groups to learn about their roles. After classes are over, we try to stay and help the pharmacy students sort and inventory as many supplies as possible to make the packing process on Friday go faster. Although we all encompass different disciplines, we will use these various skills to work together as a hopefully very effective and compassionate healthcare team. 

-Mackenzie (Undergrad)