Trip to Honduras

Posted by on Sep 29, 2008 in Members, Missions | 0 comments

URMC to provide help in Honduras

by Justina Wang. Democrat & Chronicle Staff writer

Next month, about a dozen University of Rochester Medical Center doctors, nurses and students will travel to Honduras to repair water filters, build cook stoves, hand out school supplies and talk with impoverished families. It’s not pure medical work, but they believe their helping hands could do more for the health of people in developing countries than any stethoscope or needle.

“It’s so easy to see there that if you don’t have clean water and your child gets diarrhea three times a year, then the intervention is clean water, not medicines,” said Dr. Douglas Stockman, director of the university’s global and refugee health program. “Prevention is probably more important than curative care.” Since 2003, Stockman and residency program director Dr. Steven Schultz have taken a medical brigade down to the village of San Jose, where there’s no running water, electricity, hospitals or clinics.

The project is part of the national Shoulder to Shoulder effort to help the poor in Honduras, and URMC has committed to helping the village for at least 10 years. In the last two years, the First Unitarian Church of Rochester has also joined the project, raising more than $70,000 for the San Jose area and sending one or two parishioners with the URMC team.

During the twice-yearly, two-week trips, the group has installed 140 ventilated stoves, built 4,500 gallon water tanks, supplied 578 pieces of PVC pipe to bring water to 30 homes, put water filters in 20 homes, helped construct latrines, trained midwives, and handed out fluoride rinse for schoolchildren. In between the community work, half the doctors and residents also see patients and write prescriptions in a makeshift warehouse clinic, where students learn that medical issues aren’t isolated from daily problems.

Children who drink infected water come in with worm and parasite infections. Poverty takes the form of malnutrition and stunted growth. Open fires in homes without stoves lead to serious burns, bronchitis and asthma. Adults who have had no medical attention in their lives come in with advanced cancers, untreated diabetes and high blood pressure, schizophrenia and psychoses that have never been diagnosed.

“It’s sometimes very difficult to see the causalities and linkages,” said Schultz. “Violence is a huge concern in Rochester, but is it a medical problem? Maybe violence is having an issue on the health of many members of the community, and maybe as a physician I should be looking at that, and not just concentrating on what I’m doing in the exam room.”

First-year resident Donald McLaren, a 26-year-old from New York City and a son of Haitian immigrants, said this is exactly why he went to medical school. He wants to work with diverse populations and is preparing for his first trip to Honduras on Oct.18 — brushing up on his Spanish and picking out a tent and sleeping bag to keep out mosquitoes and scorpions when he sleeps on the floor of an open cinderblock school. “This is going to be a very interesting experience,” he said. “I expect to be shocked, and I expect to do a lot for the community in Honduras.”

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