Six University of Mississippi pharmacy students spent part of their summer distributing medications and counseling patients in the Dominican Republic during a medical mission trip, and they say the experiences were life-changing and will make them better health care professionals.
Hannah Harvey, of Collins; Michael Kelley, from Booneville; Ann Kate Meagher, of Oxford; Carley Puckett, from Louisville; Anna Miller Rebich, of Brandon; and Madden Stockstill, from Picayune, all fourth-year students in the UM School of Pharmacy, joined a team of health professionals in the cities of Barahona and Bombita between June 10 and 17.
The students supported the medical team in efforts to provide vital health care services, such as taking blood pressure, counseling diabetic patients, instructing the usage of oral asthma inhalers and distributing reading glasses and sunglasses. The trip gave students an opportunity to take part in services outside of pharmacy.
“I really liked how we got to switch jobs every day to keep things fresh and get a new perspective each day,” Meagher said.
Of course, they also put their pharmacy education to work and helped dispense medication, filling more than 3,000 prescriptions. In total, more than 700 patients were seen over the course of the trip.
For the people of the Dominican Republic, all the services were a lifeline. For the students, it was an eye-opening and humbling experience. Medicines that many may take for granted, such as Tylenol, are seen as a big deal.
“I had no idea the impact that serving these people in this setting would have on me,” Puckett said. “I saw many different scenarios that I will never forget, but the thing that has stuck with me the most since leaving is their almost desperation to have simple medications that we as Americans can easily access.
Randy Calvert, director of pharmacy operations at the Mississippi Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Flowood and a preceptor with the School of Pharmacy, led the students on their trip. He noted that this trip was an empowering experience for students.
“They realized that they knew so much more than they gave themselves credit for,” he said. “They gained confidence in their skills, and were able to practice and use what they have learned up to this point in a real-life medical setting, working with others for the common goal of helping patients.”
For all the experiences of the trip, what might be most remembered will be the smiles.
“The joy that I feel when I think back on these children is immeasurable,” Puckett said. “They left such an impact on me, and I will forever remember their smiling faces each time they saw us.”