December 20, 2018
By Whitney Tarpy
OXFORD, Miss. – Social responsibility is one of the eight core values at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, emphasizing the importance of serving one’s local, state-wide, national and global communities.
Although global community service opportunities are harder to come by, this past summer, a group of 25 student pharmacists traveled to Peru to provide health services to local residents.
Randy Calvert, director of pharmacy operations at Mississippi Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Clinic, led the trip, which also focused on mission work.
The group of student pharmacists included fourth-years Emily Lewis of Valley Park, Missouri; Elizabeth Bell Hearn of Senatobia, Mississippi; Nick Walker of Hernando, Mississippi; and Heidi Ott of Osyka, Mississippi.
“Peru was an incredible learning experience for me,” Lewis said. “My eyes were opened to the lack of adequate health care and resources available to these residents. Working to communicate with, diagnose and treat each patient’s personal needs was incredible.”
The language barrier could have easily caused problems for the student pharmacists and their patients, but the team didn’t let it stand in their way.
“In the beginning, I felt overwhelmed because I couldn’t speak much Spanish, and I wanted to be able to communicate more with them,” Ott said. “However, they let us know they were so grateful for our help.”
This wasn’t the first mission trip for Walker, having previously spent time in Mexico and Honduras, but volunteering in Peru gave him the chance to use his classroom knowledge in the real world.
“I have always included short-term missions as part of my reasoning for choosing a pharmacy career path after I was hooked on international missions out of high school,” Walker said. “This just happens to be the first time I have been able use any medical knowledge for a mission trip. Whereas before I served with my hands and my heart, this time I served with more emphasis on my head and my heart.”
Overall, the trip provided the student pharmacists with valuable experiences and lessons in how sometimes small things can make a big difference.
“It was more amazing than I could have ever imagined,” Hearn said. “The villages we visited greeted us warmly, with respect and open arms. I could never put into words the pure joy that overflowed from my heart as we watched the Peruvian people light up at the sight of lotion and other supplies.”