I am Meggin Hendricks an RN and lay midwife from the states. What has been so special to me working in Tanzania is the unspoken communication between the beautiful Tanzanian women and our group when providing their care. As my Swahili is sparse, I really depended on their facial expressions and movements. Soothing patients with our hands and using a bit of charades helped me understand their pain and fears. The greatest gifts of all were the warm hugs from the patients as they ended their care with us. Their gratitude and smiles and grace through often difficult experiences inspire me and will be a beautiful memory in my mind forever.
The friendships created amongst team members are priceless. One evening as we finished our last surgery the power went out and on went the head-lamps. Recovering a patient fresh out of surgery with a head lamp and minimal supplies is not the easiest task. As I watched over her vitals, administered pain medication, and changed her gown, large brown beetles, mosquitoes and giant pink moths dive bombed my forehead and nose loving the bright bulb of my lamp. These are the experiences we laughed at in our exhaustion and will carry with us forever.
I think the most important thing I have gained from this experience is the understanding of how incredible it feels to give freely. To work tirelessly for many hours and feel somehow invigorated walking home late at night. I have never used my skills as an RN to volunteer. I now know this is a very special way to feel closer to that Higher Source and to fill my heart. I am eternally grateful for my time here at the Nyakato Clinic.
Meggin Hendricks, RN
Tanzania mission September 2010
Jamaica was an unforgettable trip for me. As a primary care internist three years out of training, I was looking for a different way of experiencing medicine. I really enjoyed working with the other volunteers, some of whom had done a lot of international medical work and some who were new to the process, like me. It was with a great sense of camraderie and common purpose that we worked together taking care of the patients, in makeshift clinic settings that ranged from a one-room schoolhouse to an open air space between two buildings! The best part was the small connections that were made with the patients; in the Ferry District, upon learning that I had two boys back home, one woman, a mother of five, proudly brought her five sons (age 3 to 15) one by one to the clinic throughout the day to introduce to me! At each site, the people were warm and welcoming, often waiting to see us all day, bringing their entire families to get care. Back in the U.S, there is so much choice and a multitude of resources for medical care, it was a good chance to be use my skills creatively and appropriately use the supplies that were available. It was also a reminder how much comfort and reassurance that patients can get when you can take the time to talk and listen. I hope to bring some of that perspective to my practice in the US.
Ritu Metzger, MD
February 2010 mission to Jamaica.
“I am grateful to MIA for the opportunity to participate in its international missions. I share their vision that all people in all countries should have access to quality medical care. Although at times frustrating, I do find these experiences extremely rewarding as an individual. In Haiti most of the women I encountered had never ever seen an ob/gyn at any time in their life, including those that had children. It’s not surprising since this is an area of healthcare that is often overlooked even here in the US. Establishing any type of ongoing program in Haiti is going to be difficult since a significant part of the population still remain in crisis with some of their basic needs not being met. It’s going to take a real commitment on our part and support from local communities in Haiti. In the future I’d like to see MIA continue to engage and foster relationships with local physicians and health care workers. Education and mentoring has to play a central role in any initiative we establish in Haiti.”
Andrea Usher, MD
I just returned from Mwanza, Tanzania and I am ready to plan my return visit. This was my second mission with MIA, but my first time not only to Tanzania but to Africa. I was amazed and inspired. I have spent the last 4 years specifically training to be a women’s health care provider. I meant for that training to be all encompassing, medicine in action has provided me with unique opportunities to make that a reality. Everyday I am challenged to provide quality healthcare to women from many different backgrounds, but the women in Mwanza had much different stories to tell than any I had experienced before. They told stories of travelling for days on foot to come see us, of protracted labors that had lasted for days, of abdominal pain for months to years making their daily work impossible. I was in awe of what daily existence means for these women and yet looking at them you would never know. They are often smiling and always dressed beautifully in brightly colored kangas. I am finishing one part of my training and moving onto another in which I hope to continue providing and improving women’s care around the world, and I have MIA to thank for these wonderful opportunities that demonstrate the need for such work.
As an OBGYN resident MIA has given me the opportunity both in Jamaica and Tanzania to provide women’s health care free of charge. This includes free consultations and exams as well as lab work and surgery. I always leave these missions knowing that we have provided quality and comprehensive medical care to women who may not have otherwise received it- for many reasons.
This trip we were also able to enhance our medical treatment and diagnostic capabilities with the use of an ultrasound that was graciously lent to us. With this ultrasound we were able evaluate pelvic masses more specifically and to differentiate and assess ovarian tumors. We were also able to perform some obstetric ultrasounds. One moment that will remain with me for a long time was when we were able to show a young women that she was pregnant. She had had numerous miscarriages, and while a heartbeat isn’t a 100% guarantee that she won’t miscarry again, it is very reassuring and not something she had ever seen before. Our patient was truly grateful for the technology to reassure her that her pregnancy at this point was going as planned. The ultrasound was infinitely helpful and we were so lucky to have one to use on this mission. I hope in the future that will be able to purchase one for use on all our missions.
Sara Pentlicky, MD
“I just returned from Tanzania a few days ago. The experience exceeded my expectations in every way. Despite only having ten days in Mwanza, we saw almost 100 patients in clinic and performed seven surgeries. The clinic staff and translators were extremely dedicated – they often stayed late into the evening helping us care for more patients. The patients themselves were the best part of the trip- many waited at the clinic all day to be seen. It was devastating having to tell women that they had HIV, or that they would not be able to have children, but without exception the patients were grateful for their care. More than any other rotation during my residency, this experience gave me an opportunity to really make a difference in women’s lives. This trip also opened my eyes to the challenges facing women’s healthcare in developing countries. I definitely plan to go on another Medicine in Action mission within the next few years.”
Elizabeth Micks, MD
Resident Physician, OB/GYN, University of California, Davis
Volunteer, May 2009
“The Jamaica experience was priceless. I got to see first hand how much healthcare was in demand there. It gave me perspective on our global health situation as well. It is not perfect outside of the U.S. either. The clinics were busy and we worked in varying environments from clinic trailors to churches. No matter how busy it was, the patients and volunteers always had smiles on their faces and were willing to wait.
The surgical experience was incredibly gratifying in our second week of the trip. I felt a great sense of accomplishment in each of the seven cases we did: we literally brought all our supplies (including our own anesthesiologist!) from the U.S.A. and we able to perform surgery that will improve these women’s lives forever.”
Bhoomi Brahmbhatt, MD
Chief Resident OB/GYN UC Davis
Volunteer, November 2006
“Once I was asked what to do if I was allowed to do anything without restriction. I said that I would go all over the world with smart locals to experience life. In November 2006, the dream was fulfilled partly by a Jamaica medical mission trip.
Indeed it was like a dream. Dr. Deborah Chong, a native Jamaican and an American MD, took us around everyday. I was like living in a dreamland, a naturally beautiful island with clean water, magnificent beaches, exotic flowers, and rich green plants. What was more were fresh fish, lobster, vegetables, jerk beef and chicken that savored our taste. Our entire trip was nicely scheduled and arranged. I don’t have to worry about house chores, commute, and work, but just experienced the island and the people fully. Although Jamaica is poor overall materialistically, but it is rich in air, orchid lived just in air blossoming; it is rich in land, plants growing rich green; it is rich in heart and in spirit, awesome “gardeners” trying tirelessly to make this island better. If you ask me whether I would go there again, the answer is for sure yes.
One day in Port Antonio, Jamaica I saw a plaque in an exceptionally well family-run restaurant. It said: Remember to Make the Best of Yourself and of Others. Since poor Jamaican can think about this, why can’t we? If self-centered Americans could change, American would be a much more better place to live.”
Hong Li, MD
Volunteer, November 2006
“This trip was fruitful for me both personally and professionally in that it altered the way I view myself and the way I interact with the world. Personally I grew because it also altered the way I approach my typical work day, handle triumph, and handle adversity. All to often, we take ourselves a little too seriously. On a professional note; treating people in this environment given limited resources is something doctors in the west should undertake. It warrants sharpening clinical skill and careful thought about what we do to and for patients. Our understanding of a disease process is only one piece of the puzzle. The patent’s social situation and condition must be taken into account. Patient access and daily activities are things I took for granted. These factors become in increasingly applicable here in the states when managing elderly patients. This experience taught me to be thoughtful, to be mindful.
Lastly, this trip taught me about the being in present. We see patients there for only a short time. We are not there to see clinical successes nor the complications should they arise. We are not there to save everyone, we are not there to operate on every patient because we can and have the skill. We are there to help the few who place their trust in our skill and more importantly our judgment.”
Clyde T. Jacob III, M.D. FACOG
Volunteer on September 2008 mission to Tanzania