Mercer On Mission

"Experience is not what happens to a person...Experience is what a person DOES with what happens to him/her"

Three Hour Tour

Bright and early this morning we headed to the ancient Mayan city of Copan. We were all very surprised to see many Scarlet Macaws flying in the tree tops above our heads. Our tour guide, Eli, told us these are the national birds of Honduras and they are quickly becoming an endangered species. We spent a few hours touring the ruins and then headed back to the hotel. After lunch, we were given the opportunity to explore on our own. Some of us went ziplining, others relaxed by the pool, and a few of us picked up those last minute souvenirs. We have a pretty early departure time from the hotel tomorrow morning (5 am!) but we are very excited to see our friends and family and share our experiences with them. See you all soon!

-Rachel, medical student 

Mayans and Macaws

After more than two weeks of being away from home, our time in Honduras is coming to a close. Today was our the last full day in country, and a major highlight of the day for the group included a tour of the Mayan ruins of Copan. We climbed temples, stepped inside the stone remains of a royals' house, and even learned how to read some of the Mayan symbols for numbers. As we first walked through expanse of green forest, we were greeted by the screeching of brightly colored Macaws flying freely among the trees. Because of the price tag placed on these birds, their numbers have been decreasing. Luckily in the area of the Mayan ruins, the population has been growing and this year's number of births has surpassed last year's number of births. We have worked so hard to preserve ancient artifacts and cities that tell the story of people who lived before us, but we cannot push aside the living creatures who are amongst us now. If they disappear, their kind cannot be uncovered like an temple covered by time. They will be lost forever. 


A long weekend of traveling and we're U.S. bound tomorrow!

This weekend was full of traveling and finally getting to be tourists in Honduras! Friday we left Choluteca and we went to the Valley of Angels. In the valley we were able to spend tons of money and buy gifts for all of our friends and family back home. We drove to Tegucigalpa and stayed in a nice hotel that night and we had a fabulous dinner! On Saturday we drove to the airport where we flew to San Pedro Sula to get picked up to drive the rest of the way to Copan. The ride was long but relaxing and I'm so happy we made it to Copan. The bus can't make it into the town so we had to walk from the front of the city to the hotel in the rain. It was funny because none of us expected this and I was wearing flip flops which made it very difficult to walk on the cobblestone streets. I almost busted my butt a couple times but thankfully I am okay. This hotel is so pretty and the people that are working here and doing such a great job taking care of us while we're staying here. We were able to explore some of the city that night which was a blast. Sunday, today, we woke up and made our way to the Mayan Ruins of Copan. Our tour guide did such a great job of giving us the history of the Mayans and showing us all around the ruins. We probably walked a total of 4 miles today but it was so worth it. Looking back I'm glad that I was able to come on this trip and I definitely feel like I gained a lot of experience and was able to see different parts of the world and different cultures and people that I never would have encountered otherwise. Now that Mercer on Mission has come to a close we are all just preparing to get a good night's rest and find ourselves back in our homes in the U.S. in less than 24 hours!!!


A Well Earned Rest

We are in Copan! Today, we said our goodbyes to Tegucigalpa, and flew to San Pedro Sula. From there, we took a bus to Copan. After we reached the hotel, we were served a delicious lunch, followed by dessert and coffee. So far, so good! Next, we journeyed to a local tea and chocolate lounge, via Tuk Tuk! My friends and I enjoyed this ride even though it felt more like a roller coaster instead of safe driving. After braving the Tuk Tuk, we were immersed in the culture and nature of Honduras through learning all about how they prepare chocolate and tea. I tried the cold chocolate, which is not sweet at all just to let you know. But, I was glad I could try it because it was prepared in the traditional Honduran way.  We learned all about tea, local plants and how they can be used as treatments and as preventative measures against illness. We got to eat leaves! They were Moringa, and it is actually very good for your body. I love trying new things, so I'm very grateful for the opportunity to visit a place so authentic and genuine. 

As we rest and prepare for a fun day tomorrow, I can't help but think about what we left behind in Tegucigalpa and Choluteca. We had to say goodbye to one of the kindest people I have ever met, Leslie, our HOI representative. Even though I have only known her for two weeks, it is plain to anyone that encounters her that she chooses to lead her life with love. She is humble and hardworking. When people talk about serving others, we often say something about how we are the hands and feet of Jesus. We are His boots on the ground, his workers and warriors. Yet, I never truly met anyone that embodied and encapsulated this lifestyle like her. I could so clearly see Jesus through her. It made me realize that this was the effect we can truly have on people. We can choose to love them, to help them and serve them. The opportunity is all around us, all we have to do is be willing. 

R. Sukumar

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Yesterday was our first day after clinics finished. We were all excited to explore La Valle de los Angeles, San Pedro, and Copán. However, saying goodbye to Leslie and the staff at Hotel Camino Real was bittersweet. Leslie's hospitality was boundless and she treated us with the same kindness and love she treated her family with. The first city we visited was La Valle de los Angeles, a square with stores. Each store had a plethora of goods including unique hand carved wooden pieces and mini leather shoulder bags. After La Valle de Los Angeles, we took a bus to the Mayan Hotel, a modern hotel dotted with traditional art. Today, we flew to San Pedro and took a bus to Copan. Copan brought cooler weather but also brought rain. We got off the bus about 4 blocks away from Hotel Marina Copan and we splashed through the cobblestone streets until we found some solace from the rain at our hotel. After lunch, we had an hour until our tour of the Tea and Chocolate Place. On our way to the Tea and Chocolate Place, we took a Tuk Tuk. The ride was exciting to say the least. The cobblestone, hills and sharp turns made the ride reminiscent of a roller coaster. At the Tea and Chocolate Place's gate, the first thing I noticed were a pair of high pitched voices. As I cleared leaves away, I realized they were parrots--parrots speaking Spanish! As we followed the winding path and walked deeper and deeper into the leaves, we finally arrived at the entrance of the Tea and Chocolate Place. I followed a warm, nutty and smoky aroma and I found one of the staff preparing the cacao beans. She explained to me in Spanish that she was roasting the cacao beans and then unshelled them. The store was glowing with natural light, Sophia's photography, and little shiny containers of cosmetics and sauces. Sophia told us about the difficulty of finding a balance between "slashing and burning" and preserving the flora and the land in Honduras. Her family's effort to reintroduce many flora and introduce foreign flora to the land was incredibly admirable. We also had a mini lesson on botany and learned about the different plant species they reintroduced or introduced. Our noses stung from the pungent noni fruit and our mouths were refreshed with the leaves of a moringa plant. 

-K. Gania

Barbie Gringo Goes to the Big City

Today we left the Hotel Camino Real in Choluteca for the last time, marking the end of our clinical mission work in Honduras. We drove to Tegucigalpa where we first flew into Honduras just 13 days ago. Along the way, we stopped in the Valley of Angels, a very charming tourist filled town. We bought pounds and pounds of coffee and many souvenirs for our friends and families (but only the ones who are reading this blog!) Arriving in Tegucigalpa, we were shocked by the change of scenery, and we began to more fully grasp the large disparity of wealth in this country. Even in the midst of our excitement and anticipation for our weekend of sightseeing, we are incredibly grateful that most of our time in Honduras was spent serving the southern communities who lack the resources that exist here in Tegucigalpa. 
When we first arrived in Honduras, Kyna's and my bags were lost by Delta. Even with the assistance of good friends who let me borrow their clothes, I quickly found myself in dire need of a washing machine. Coordinating laundry at the hotel was not necessarily simple, so our HOI host, Leslie, offered to take me to her home to wash my clothes there. Luckily our luggage arrived just in the nick of time before I had to do laundry at Leslie's home! We learned much later in the trip just how generous her offer had been when she explained that her house does not have running water. Instead her husband, Osmund, must purchase jugs of filtered water to fill their cistern, which provides all the water for their house. Leslie's kindness is just one example of the many times that we have been overwhelmed by the love that Hondurans show to strangers and neighbors alike. I know this experience will impact the way I approach patients at home, and I hope our Honduran patients have felt as well loved by us as we have been by them.

McGee Hopper, MSIII

Live In the Spirit of Giving

I decided to join Mercer on Mission to work with an underserved population as well as with an interdisciplinary team in a clinical setting. As a nursing student, we spend a great amount of time working in the hospital assessing admitted patients, administering medications based on the patients status, lab values, and/or diseases per doctors orders (sometimes requesting changes to orders), educating patients about the medications and side effects of medications as well as monitoring the patient for those side effects while in care. 

I wanted to use this opportunity to expand my knowledge and patient care skills with the challenge of language being the biggest obstacle. I worked in intake for 3 days-asking people a few question about their visit or taking blood pressures and pulses. I also worked in education and distributing glasses for 3 days-teaching about Diabetes, Hypertension, Prenatal care, and Dental care. Today was the best day of all. I got to sit in with a provider and an interpreter and assess the patients for ailments and diseases. Treatment plans are also determined. This is why I came on this mission and it was awesome. 

I left my home, my family & friends to spend time with 30 people-most of them I only met 2 weeks ago to volunteer in Honduras. We have been surrounded by armed guards and closely supervised for our safety while on this mission trip. Bugs also surrounded us-big, small, crawling, flying, hybrids. They are everywhere. The air conditioner while at the hotel keeps them at bay and of course 100% Deet. I was able to keep my laundry clean by handwashing my clothes. Others also did their laundry in their rooms. I was fortunate-may be it was the probiotic and antibiotics but I have been free from gastrointestinal ailments. Most meals consisted of refried beans, rice or pico de gallo, plantains & queso blanco. Sometimes it included eggs, or chicken. The staff at the hotel are nice and work long hours. I was never able to get the  shower water warmer than 90 degrees but who can complain in a country where fresh clean water is an issue. This mission was a wonderful experience & we were blessed to have our hosts Leslie & Miriam & the rest of the team who met us daily at each location.

Now the other bonus from this trip was the people of Honduras. We met some very nice people with some beautiful children in this country. They are the ones that made every hot bumpy sweaty dusty humidity filled 90+ degrees bus ride worth the while. The country is beautiful. We had many hours of riding on the bus to enjoy the beautiful mountains of Honduras. 

Galatians 5:25
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

Yolanda S.

New Towns, New Experiences

Going into this trip, I was truly excited to explore how global outreach is practically applied, hoping to better understand its function in service learning and how it benefits those harmed by public health disparities. Coming from a public health background, I have been taught to focus on genuinely and objectively evaluating health interventions with regard to their effectiveness and efficacy. Therefore, I have been quite interested in examining each part of our mission in Honduras to find how we can improve upon the structure and impact of the trip. It has been a wonderful experience having the perspective of so many different groups of students with such widely differing perspectives. Everyone has a unique and interesting opinion as to how we can benefit the most people.

Today, I had the opportunity to shadow a provider, and after a couple of patients, I was asked to lead some of the interviews with patients through the guidance of the provider. Although I was quite timid to begin with, I felt that I was able to better understand the perspectives and thought processes of the med students after being involved in the clinic in this manner. 
As we approach our last day of clinic tomorrow, we are all quite exhausted; however, we are all beyond prepared for the unique experiences that are associated with traveling to and helping a new town. This has been one benefit of traveling to seven different towns while in Honduras- each town has a different set of diseases that produce a larger burden on the specific town. This has also resulted in an interesting topic for our pharmacy because it can be difficult to expect or account for what diseases will be most prevalent and the amount of each drug that we will need for that day. 

-Emily S.

No Hablo Ingles

Our trip so far in Honduras has been nothing short of an adventure. Today we arrived to the community of Guanacaste. As we walked through the crowd of smiling Hondurans who had been eagerly awaiting our arrival since 5:00 AM, I was reminded once again just how blessed we are to have the honor attending a medical mission trip such as this one. It is now our second week of the trip and our last day of clinic is tomorrow. Each day in clinic I become much more confident in my abilities as a student physician. Although I have yet to figure out why almost every single patient laughs at me when I say to them, "Me llamo Charlotte". Maybe it's my southern accent. 

Throughout this entire trip every patient that I have seen has been over the top grateful for everything we have done for them. It is humbling, to say the least, to have people so thankful for something we "North Americans" keep stocked in our medicine cabinets. When we have a headache we go to the cabinet and pop an ibuprofen or two. No big deal. We don't even think twice about the fact that there are so many people in this world who are willing to stand in line for hours just to get ibuprofen for their headaches or arthritic pain from years of manual labor. One patient I saw today came in with acute chest pain and shortness of breath. We had to rule out acute myocardial infarction with nothing but to go by but clinical symptoms. In America the first thing we do is run tests. Show up to the ER with chest pain...immediate ECG and blood draw to check for elevated troponins. We obviously had none of these luxuries that we are all so used to having in the U.S. Relying solely on clinical presentation instead of lab results was a great way to challenge our medical knowledge and a great learning experience as a medical student. Of course we had our amazing MD's guiding us to make sure we didn't miss anything. Thankfully we confidently ruled out an MI. 
Mercer On Mission has reminded me of why I decided to go to medical school in the first place. As a third year medical student, it is easy to get lost in the chaos of clinical rotations, Step 2 studying, and the stress of landing the perfect away rotation and forget why you are going through all of these years of schooling to begin with. I chose medicine because I genuinely want to help people and that is what we are getting to do here in Honduras. I am very thankful for all of the people of Honduras, for their culture, and for their gracious hospitality. It has been a joy to work with so many amazing people. 

Charlotte Smith, MSIII

May 30, 2017

Over these couple of clinic weeks, I've realised a few things: patients will nod regardless of whether they understand you, diarrhea can, in fact, be normal, and pregnant ladies are my favorite people in the clinic. I've never had close family or friends who were pregnant, so I've not had much interaction with pregnancy. These women actually do glow. They say that they've had morning sickness maybe twice-not in the week-In the entire pregnancy. They laugh when I get excited about their names for their babies. Besides the joy they bring into the clinic, pregnant women are some of the easiest patients to treat. We can make a real difference by giving antibiotics for a UTI that could interfere with labor. And after a day of patients with cataracts and arthritis that we can barely help, it's relieving to be able to tell a woman that we can treat her problem and that her baby is healthy. 
Yesterday I had a patient that was two weeks from giving birth. After asking her all the general questions for women in late stages of pregnancy, the doctor asked to feel her stomach. He allowed me to feel too, and I was able to tell the woman how the baby was positioned in her stomach just by feeling the backbone. She laughed at my excitement, but for me, it was an entirely new experience. It reminded me why I wanted to come here, why I want to go to medical school. I want to have that excitement, to be able to share in a patient's happiness over good health, to be able to help produce that health. 


Blog Clinic Day 7 of 9

We're almost done with clinics now and it feels like we have really hit our stride.  In the past two days we have been at a health center which is little bigger than a trailer park home and we have seen almost three hundred and twenty patients.  Though the days have been hotter and more of our team is sick this week than last, we have been able to provide care to these patients in such a way that you can see the results on the smiles on their faces.  Its not easy work to be out in the sun and in a hot, sweaty set of scrubs for nine to ten hours a day, but this trip was never about being easy, it was about making our way to a completely different and even uncomfortable place to meet the people in their homes and to touch their lives.  What I don't think anyone of us expected when we began this trip was just how much some of these people would touch our hearts.  From the adorable smiles of little children laughing and playing soccer to the "gracias" uttered by an eighty-seven year old receiving her first pair of glasses, the hard work is worth it.
Our team saw a ten year old boy with leukemia today and although we may not be able to truly shape the course of his life in some grand way, we gave him a ball and a figurine and his face lit up.  I know that the purpose of this trip was to go serve others and bring healing where there was none, but today especially gave me an important lesson in this case.  That boy was so happy and we gave him what probably was a Dollar Tree bouncy ball and a small plastic figurine.  You would be hard pressed to find that kind of gratitude in many of the places in the U.S.  We truly live in so much excess that sometimes we lose sight of the value of things like hard work in hot and humid clinics and the reward of a ten year old child's smile after giving him a small gift and making him feel cared for and welcome in spite of whatever medical condition he may have. 

Day 9

Day 9 of our trip: To appear to be such a poor place Honduras is so full of life! There is something to be discovered wherever you look, whether it be new people, roaming live stock, or the beautiful flora; it truly is full of life. The simplicity of the way life lived here might take some adjusting to but I admire it. I think it gives greater meaning to life even if monetarily restricted. 

Today we had the option of going to a Baptist church this morning. Some decided to attend and some stayed at the hotel. Church was interesting, although I'm baptist, order of the church was very different from what I'm use to. At church they have bible study for different age groups after first prayer, a song, and then preaching. The Mercer students got placed together. Each group had to memorize a bible verse.  We then had to get in front of the entire church and recite the Bible verse we learned.
After church we headed back to the hotel and had lunch. We all spent our free time differently today but met at 5 pm for supper. Supper was extremely well put together and muy bien!! I think everyone enjoyed it. At supper we celebrated Drew Fozzard's (MD student- HAPPY BIRTHDAY DREW) and Dr. Mary Mathis' birthdays with cake.
After supper we went back to the hotel to count pills.  It was a tedious task for the hour but we got it done and are ready for the next days clinic.

Unearned Thanks

Today was our first day back after the weekend and it was quite a busy day! We went to a village called Nueva Concepción and we are going to be there tomorrow again. We had a lot of patients, more than normal. However, clinics have been my favorite part of this trip so I had no problem with it. Also, there were many fans today so it wasn't as hot as usual. I had the typical diverse amount of patients today with the typical UTI, arthritis, headaches, etc. I sympathize for many of the patients given the circumstances, but today, I was more emotional for a certain patient than usual. It was a man in his mid forties and he came in sitting in a wheelchair. He had paralysis in his right arm and could barely feel his two legs. When he was able to feel something, it was solely pain and that's why he couldn't walk. The paralysis started seventeen years ago and he told us how he's been to many doctors and yet none could come up with any diagnosis. We examined him to the best of our ability and couldn't give him anything more than pain medicine for his legs. He thanked us many times for this medicine. Then, with a look of hope in his eyes, he asked me if we knew what the cause of all of it was. When I said that we unfortunately did not, he smiled back at me and said that it's okay and thanked us many more times. After waiting for hours, actually seventeen years, to hopefully hear a diagnosis and still not receiving one but still maintaining a warm, happy, and thankful attitude definitely made him one of the strongest people I have ever met. He came in with optimism that maybe the "American" doctors may have some new knowledge to diagnosis him and he was only able to leave with a few acetaminophens. Even though I wasn't able to give him much, he gave me inspiration to be strong regardless of the circumstances and I will forever be thankful to him for that. 

- Kruti

Refreshed and back to work

Late last night the medications we desperately needed arrived. With our stomachs full from a nice dinner in Choluteca, the entire team worked diligently into the night sorting medications in preparation for clinics this week. This morning we arrived at  “nuevo concepcion”  for our clinic, refreshed from a weekend off. We were greeted by hundreds of rural hondurans in search of medical care and quickly set up our clinic stations. In just 1 week of clinics, we all have designed an efficient process allowing us to provide quality patient care despite our very limited resources. Clinic ran smoothely, although today was exceptionally hot and humid. Those of us that could eat lunch( some of us have been fighting a GI bug) enjoyed some tasty nachos with pico de gallo. After seeing our last patient we boarded the bus back home to Choluteca and capped off our night with chicken noodle soup and cheese quesedillas for dinner. Yuuuumy. Well be headed back to the same village tomorrow morning bright and early.

Overcoming Obstacles

During our travels thus far, most of our team has faced some type of adversity or obstacle that they might not have been prepared for. These obstacles may be things such as a language barrier, lack of clinical proficiency, culture shock, etc. since arriving in Honduras, my biggest obstacle has been flexibility. 

My personality calls for a strict time schedule and set objectives. This trip has really challenged that aspect for me. Due to construction, our trips on the bus are often much longer than they were originally expected to be. This then throws off the schedule for the rest of the day. 

Our times in the clinic are expected to end around 3:15; however, each day so far hasn't ended until 4:00-5:00 pm. This then requires me to adjust to the schedule changes. 

I've come to the realization that though an organized structured lifestyle can be easily accomplished within the United States, it is difficult to accomplish this within Honduran culture, especially when traveling with a large group. After receiving our cultural integration information session from Leslie, I have come to understand that Hondurans aren't afraid of being late or taking a little bit of extra time for themselves while putting off other responsibilities. They are a go with the flow society; therefore, I should go with the flow. 

Geoffry Johnson 

Public Health Student 

Food. Fun. Farmacia.

After a busy week of clinic (we saw 880 patients!) and our day trip to San Marcos de Colon yesterday, today was a much needed day of R&R. The day started out with a delicious breakfast from our hotel. Everyone's favorite breakfast by far is the panqueques (pancakes) which look and taste more like a crepe than the pancakes we are used to back home. This morning we were surprised to see fluffy "American" pancakes. After breakfast, about half of the group headed to church with Leslie (our HOI representative) and her family. Those who stayed behind used the morning for reflection or to catch up on studying. Everyone reunited at lunch over another delicious meal of chicken tostadas. Many of us were excited for this evening since it was our first (and maybe only) opportunity to leave the hotel and eat dinner in Choluteca. After about a 5 minute ride in our party bus, we arrived at El Torito and were joined by Leslie, Osman (Leslie's husband), and members of the Fundesur staff who are sponsoring us on our mission trip. We were spoiled by another delicious meal of salad (yes, it was safe to eat!), potatoes, and platters of chicken, steak, and chorizo. We also celebrated two birthdays tonight. Dr. Mathis, our Public Health faculty member, had a birthday last Wednesday and Drew, one of the medical students, has a birthday tomorrow. About 30 minutes after we got back to the hotel from dinner our final shipment of medications arrived. We spent another few hours dividing out medicines for the next four days of clinic and we are excited to start the week with a fully stocked pharmacy!

Rachel, medical student 

Hospitality with a smile Honduran Style

Today was a nice day of rest for us after a busy first week of clinic. On our day off we headed to San Marcos de Colon to spend time walking around town. We had been told that this was the place we should buy coffee, so we were all excited to purchase our Honduran coffee to enjoy when we return home. We were trying to find a store to buy coffee and were getting a little turned around. As the time for us to return to the bus approached, we stopped to ask a group of Honduran men for help. I asked one of the men if he knew where we could find a store that carried the local coffee. The man thought on it for a moment and then jumped into his truck and grabbed a piece of paper and started drawing us a map of the city. I was pretty dumbfounded when he started doing this because this was something I wouldn’t expect in the US. After he drew the map he went through the directions with me and had numbered all the turns. Though we didn’t have time to go to the coffee shop I was so appreciative of the time he took to help us as we were walking the streets of San Marcos. I left the city in awe of the hospitality of a stranger on the streets of Honduras who was willing to take time out of his day to help a group of North Americans or “Gringos” find a few bags of coffee to purchase. 
The best part of the day was the time to reflect on the entirety of our first week as clinicians. This week was challenging. My first day of clinic, I was anxious about the responsibility I already felt to the patients lined up outside the gates before the first patient even came in. Looking back on our first week, I think of how this experience is shaping us to be better physicians as we go forward in our careers. Meeting patients who are so grateful for a pack of multivitamins and Albendazole treatment for their children is truly moving and serves as a reminder of the many blessings in our lives at home that we may take for granted. Every patient I saw this week was more appreciative of the time I spent with them than the last. I am excited to see how we take what we have learned from our first week of clinic into our second week starting Monday! 


A Mountain View for a Tired Team

During our first week in Honduras, our team has completed five full days of clinic, braced hot and muggy weather that puts Georgia to shame, and battled a variety of  creepy crawly creatures amongst our bed sheets. Even with these triumphs, the tired eyes of the team Friday evening reflected a desperate need for physical and mental rest. Friday night was full of games and conversation amongst newly made friends. I am convinced this (along with a few more hours of sleep Saturday morning) is why everyone emerged from their rooms this morning transformed in a way. The smiles were bigger and the tone more upbeat. As we moved to the bus, I had no clue we were about to drive through some of the most breathtaking scenery I could imagine. With bus windows rolled down and the cool mountain air hitting our faces, we ascended to the town of San Marcos de Colon. We explored the streets filled with vendors selling anything from food to clothing. However, during the exploration in our small groups of 4 to 7 people, I could not have felt more like a zoo animal. Eyes constantly followed our steps and heads turned to catch a glance. We were then transported even further up the mountain for a delicious lunch with another great view. We even had the opportunity to walk to a clearing with a drop off that made for amazing photos with a lush green mountain view. Some members channeled their inner mountain goat and made their way to the very highest point. Following the meal, we made our way back to the hotel where we had only dinner and rest planned the remainder of the evening. It easy after a week of such a foreign environment and hard work to feel burnt out and unmotivated. This is also a difficult time because the dysfunctional elements of trip have emerged. Right now the team and its individuals have a choice to make. We can be bogged down and drown in every unplanned, uncomfortable, unwanted, and frustrating situation thrown our way or we can chose to find and focus on the blessings, gifts, and triumphs we have. Between the fun earlier in the day, the allotted time for rest in the evening, and a continual reflection on the good and positivity that is woven into this trip, it is my hope that we can regain the spark and drive we held in the at the beginning of the week. Tomorrow is yet another day to extinguish our weariness so on Monday we can jump right back into the job we came here to do. 


Friday Funday

As the first clinic week comes to a close, I can't help but feel so grateful for all the little things we all take for granted back in the States. Today we drove an hour to a rural community in Honduras. The views included mountains, pastures with cows, fields of solar panels but amongst all of these things were the homes of those who call this country home. Some were constructed of concrete blocks but others were mere horizontal sticks placed methodically with mud packed in the in between to form walls. Children playing in dirt amongst chickens. We arrived at the school (and now our make-shift clinic) to a sizeable crowd of eager and curious Hondurans. As we got off the bus, we greated them (most of us in our broken Spanish). The international smiles were mutual. Today just like every other day, there was an instant since of appreciation from the people who had welcomed us so graciously into this school and into their culture. With our limited supplies (by our Western culture), clinic began. Intake-vitals-provider visit-education/glasses-pharmacy is the machine we have worked to tune all week. No matter the hiccups we have faced, we continue and the Honduran people are so grateful for even acetaminophen or ibuprofen. It is so eye opening. The sense of family and community here is something I have never seen. Despite all of the challenges they face - limited clean water, poverty, sickness - these people prevail. This is life for them and they live with pride. If nothing else can be taken from this trip, we all will find gratuitude for the things we have and be mindful of the things others do not. This trip and the people of Honduras have forever impacted my life and will make me a better physician some day. Thank you MOM.

-Addie Jones, MSIII

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Today was our last day of clinic this week. The weather was so much better than earlier this week because it was cloudy. Today's clinic finished earlier because we didn't have as many patients. Even though a lot of us aren't feeling too well, including myself, I had the most fun today. So far I feel like we haven't been able to actually connect much with the patients, but today we were able to play soccer with some of the kids. I also had a really fun experience with a patient. He was a little boy named Ernesto and he's 4 years old and he seemed very hyperactive so I was joking around with his mom about his hyperactivity as she was explaining why he needed to be seen by a doctor. He played soccer with some undergrads before he came inside to see the doctor, so the whole time we were trying to talk to them he kept saying that he wanted to play with the ball. After we were done with clinic and we were packing up, I asked someone to get me a ball from the suitcase of toys we brought and I gave it to him and he just had the biggest smile on his face. Ernesto, his sister, an Honduran doctor, and I played with the ball until our group had to leave. Every day has been fun because I've been able to meet new people and understand the culture more, but today was definitely the most fun.


The Differences That Unite

After sluggishly boarding the bus for our third transport to clinic, I think we were all surprised to find that, at our new clinic location, we would be working inside classrooms that would allow us to create a system of seeing patients that was irrefutably more efficient while also providing more time for us to interact with them. Since we see an incredibly large number of patients each day, it has been difficult to find this balance of efficiency and quality relationship-building. However, as we all get more used to working as a team, understanding eachother's working styles, and navigating our workspaces, we have so many more opportunities to interact with our patients and further understand them, despite the incredible language barrier that separates us. Our HOI representative told us a very interesting and funny story/concept yesterday as we were learning more about the Honduran culture and how it is different from Western culture. She said that if Jesus were to ask a group of Honduran people to fish farther in the water after a long day, they would all say "I'm too tired; I want to take a rest," and if he asked the same of a group of people from the US, they would be determined to go and catch the fish, but when they did, they'd forget who told them to continue fishing in the first place. Although this a vastly broad generalization, it truly demonstrates the error that can be found in every culture and the idea that it is such differences and faults that unite us. In order to truly have an impact on people of various cultures, we must learn to both recognize and respect the differences while choosing to focus and build from those experiences and qualities that relate us to one another. We are so immensely grateful to have this opportunity to reach out and help these rural Honduran communities while also learning and better understanding their culture and what it truly means to work on an interdisciplinary team.

-Emily S.

Day 3: New Location

Today we went to a new location for clinic, and I must say today I had the best experiences thus far, culturally and educationally. We were at a school and the children were so adorable. The adults were more grateful than ever and I received so many hugs, which was heartwarming. I work in the pharmacy and the setup was different in a good way, with more space and opportunity to interact with patients. My favorite part about the day was being able to go outside of the pharmacy and counsel the patients on their medications and follow a patient throughout their case, so the change of scenery was a great experience I will hold onto. I would have to say each day is getting better. Some days are better than others and today was a good day for all of us. This whole process has been a learning experience for me because I came into this not knowing what to expect, and at the same time not being able to speak Spanish to communicate effectively what I want to has been very difficult. I have learned that translators are your best friends and I am so grateful to have them around. The entire team has been so great and everyone brings something different to the table. With each passing day there has been some type of struggle whether it be the heat, workload, exhaustion, or the emotional aspect. At the end of the day, I'm here to serve and give medications to those in need. Every struggle has been worth the reward, and I definitely have come to realize how lucky I am and appreciate life more than ever. 

- Mandy Hill

Second Day of Clinic, Still So Much To Learn

Hola!! Greetings from Honduras! Today was the second day of clinic. We traveled to the same village that we were at yesterday. There were not as many patients today but it was still extremely busy, and hot of course! Today my assignment gave me the opportunity to interact with more patients, which I loved. I speak very little Spanish, which proved to be an obstacle as well as a learning opportunity. I learned a few phrases in Spanish today which seem simple enough, such as "wait here, please", but goodness were they lifesavers!!! I couldn't have done today at all without the help of the interpreters and Dr. Pino. Although I am not fluent in their language, I was able to share smiles with the patients and they did the same. Sometimes the little kids would just come up and give me hugs for no reason at all! That's just the kind of people that we are dealing with. They had been waiting for us at the clinic entrance since five in the morning and despite that they were so grateful to be there and happy to see us. HOI, the organization sponsoring us, also gave us more information tonight on the culture of Honduras so that we could carry that knowledge over into clinics and our overall experience here. Mostly I've learned how important it is to understand and appreciate another's culture, even if it is different from your own. It's so easy for us Westerners to come in and to act like we have all the answers and that our way is the right way, especially in healthcare. I think that each of us, no matter what discipline (nursing, pharmacy, etc.) can take this information to heart and humble ourselves each day in front of the people as they welcome us into their communities. 

This trip is already starting to put a lot into perspective for me personally, and nothing makes me happier than to see our patients walk out with a smile on their face while thanking us for seeing them, even if there was not much we could do for some patients. Don't get me wrong, the days that we spend at clinic are not easy, they're extremely busy, hot, exhausting, long, and sometimes frustrating. But helping these people and seeing their positive reaction truly does make it worth it all. 


Clinic Day 2

Today was our second day of clinic. It was busy once again. Over 150 patients were seen today. The team was so efficient today. We had seemed to work out all of the "kinks" and everything seemed to flow much better. We were introduced to all of the Fundesur team today. They are the ones who have organized all of the clinic days for us and have made sure that we have everything that we need, including food and water! they are wonderful, welcoming, and such hard working people. These last two days have been exhausting but also so rewarding. Every patient that we have seen is so grateful for each thing that we can do for them. One patient stood out to me today.... She was an elderly female with chronic arthritis in her knees and back. She had been hurting for years. She did not have the money to afford medications. We were able to prescribe her ibuprofen for a total of 30 days. She was so grateful. She hugged both me and another medical student and then said a prayer for us. Even though we had not done much for her, It was so rewarding because she was so thankful. I cannot wait to work with more patients the remainder of our trip and look forward to continuing to make an impact in each of the lives.


Our first clinic!

Today was our first clinic and OMG it was crazy and exciting and exhausting and fun and so many different things. I'm not sure if my experience is representatives of everyone's considering in an interpreter and my problems consist more of "what's that word" as opposed to "what do I prescribe this person." But I learned so much about Honduran vocabulary, as as you learn more vocabulary and learn more about how they talk and say things, you're simultaneously learning about their culture. I've learned that Honduran people LOVE to talk and tell their stories. A simple "do you have back pain?" Warrants an answer that consists of something that happened to them in 2010, every medication they've taken in the past ten years, and all of the names of their children. It was disappointing though, because we weren't really able to sit and listen to these stories because we had to rush and get through as many patients as possible. Ultimately though, that is what's best for the community. I love noticing all of the little cultural differences, like how women will breastfeed out in the open with no shame, or how there were women pregnant that were as young as 15 and as old as 45. My favorite part about today in the end was talking with two women who were my age about how excited they were about having their babies, one of which showed me videos of her baby kicking, and the other of which was having her third child. I'm so excited to see how my ability to connect with and help these people improves as my Spanish continues to improve and this week goes on. 


First Day of Clinic

Today was our first day in the clinic, and it was a long, but fun day. We loaded everything onto the buses at 7:15 this morning and started our almost two hour ride to the clinic. When we arrived at the clinic there was a line of about 200 people waiting for us. We were told that the line  started forming around 5 am, in anticipation of our arrival. We unloaded the buses and got everything set up and by about 10 we were ready to see our first patients. The process for getting a patient from sign in to seeing a medical student and finally to the pharmacy took some time to get used to. The patients would sign in with our triage team where they would have their blood pressure and pulse taken, and the patient would describe three chief complaints to be addressed when they were seen. The patients then were brought in to see the students for a quick history and physical. After a diagnosis was made, the patients were sent to pharmacy with a prescription for any medications they were going to receive from the pharmacy students. While the patients waited for their medications, there was a brief education session by the nursing students addressing common health issues such as diabetes and hypertension. When the patient had received their medications, they were done at the clinic and were ready to leave. After we had seen over 200 patients for the day, we were ready to pack the bus up and head back to the hotel. After our two hour bus ride, we got to the hotel and had a dinner of fried fish and had a team debrief. We are now going to sort more pills so that we can do it again tomorrow. As the trip progresses, we will be switching up roles so that undergraduates are performing the history and physicals with some input from others and pharmacy students will be doing education etc... We will all have a chance to provide care in ways other than what we are in school for, which may be uncomfortable at times, but will help us grow as providers. 


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On the first day of our journey, our eyes were met with the beautiful sapphire and emerald vista that undulated with hills against the misty sky. We were exposed to the beauty of the land. On the second day of our journey, we were able to delve beyond the surface and were immersed in the beauty of the culture. Our hosts welcomed us with open arms but their hospitality and generosity were even more prevalent the second day. The Mercer on Mission team all met at breakfast at 8:00 am. The first portion of the meal was fresh and juicy fruit. However, the second portion of breakfast was my favorite by far. The camarero offered us two choices: panqueques or la desayuno tradicional. I wanted to have a more traditional breakfast. La desayuno tradicional consisted of juevos revueltos con jamón, frijoles, queso, and plátanos. The juevos revueltos' soft and light flavor paired well with the savory and strong flavor of the jamón. The frijoles' smoky flavor  brightened the creamy queso. The plátanos' sweet and soft texture made them a star all on their own. After breakfast, half of the team began preparing the medications and other supplies for the first day of clinic while the other half of the team had 2 hours of leisure. A couple friends and I wandered around the compound. As we were admiring the scenery and exploring, we stumbled upon mass. A majority of the people of Honduras are Roman Catholics, like me. My friends and I were curious and intrigued by the vibrant sounds of instruments and voices. We received permission to briefly watch the mass. As we entered the venue, our ears perked up with the sound of the priest's voice. He spoke like a pianist playing a trill with each sentence he sang, a sharp contrast to the more stoic Roman Catholic masses I was accustomed to in the United States. It was one of the most inspiring and uplifting moments I've ever experienced during mass. After our brief visit, it was time for the other half of the team to prepare medications and supplies for our first day of clinic.

-K. Gania

Day 1-2 Blog (The Journey From Tegucigalpa to Choluteca)

            The first thing I noticed before we even touched down on the Tegucigalpa runway was the sheer number of houses that seemed to be stacked one on top of the other all over the mountains surrounding the city.  Once we began to make our way through the maze of streets and out into the country via the Pan-American Highway, it became even more apparent just how different the lives of these people were from anyone in the U.S.  The traffic, for example, has what seem more like guidelines than actual laws, yet somehow the driver of our converted school bus managed to fit us through the chaos.  The houses edged right up next to the road, which was apparently a major highway.  In the U.S., we would of course be shocked to ever see houses, however low in real estate price, only a yard or two away from the edge of the road, but this seemed to be norm.  Although we complain about litter in public places or along roads in the U.S., there was usually a constant sprinkling of garbage along the roadways, sometimes unfortunately marring what would otherwise be a beautiful vista.  Although we do have problems in the U.S. just as in every country, seeing all of this made me realize how often we’re prone to complain about what we don’t have rather than being grateful for what we already have.  We live such rich and blessed lives and yet we talk at times as if we were in situations like many of the Hondurans we passed on our trip to Choluteca yesterday.  While this is only day two of our trip (counting the travel day), and I already can’t wait to see what else we’ll learn here.

                                    ~Grant Shelton

Update: Safe Arrival

We are happy to report that we have made it safely to Choluteca, and the rest of our group will be joining us tomorrow due to our overbooked flight. Reflective blog posts will begin tomorrow for our first full day in Choluteca!