Medical training in Central America

Bradley student Allen Ghareeb, standing far left, and Nhi Vo, standing far right, volunteer in Central America during Winter Break 2012. The students observed an helped in the medical assessments and treatments of patients.

February 25, 2013

By Clarrissa McWoodson ’14

During Winter Break 2012, Bradley students Nhi Vo and Allen Ghareeb boarded a plane to Central America where they volunteered on a student medical mission with Global Medical Training, or GMT.

They arrived in Nicaragua and spent nine days traveling with students from other universities across the country as well as neighboring Honduras, setting up medical clinics in remote villages.

“My trip to Honduras and Nicaragua with GMT was not only incredibly rewarding, but it also provided me with a deeper understanding and insight on where my passions lie,” said Ghareeb, a junior majoring in biochemistry.

Students participating in the clinics collected medical histories, performed simple examinations and consulted with doctors. Frequently patients complained of illnesses that were often related to the long hours spent picking coffee beans in the hot sun, drinking an excess of coffee throughout the day and having limited access to potable water.

Vo, a senior biology major, said she learned a lot about patient advocacy, the limitations of medicine, how to write prescriptions and measuring out dosages for children and adults.

“I have never felt like I have made more of a difference. The best part about this trip was getting to apply the knowledge that I learned in the classroom to real patients,” Vo said.

Vo said she enjoyed the trip because it was a challenge. If she could do it all over again, she said she would and hopes to return next December.

GMT is a nonprofit that provides free medical and dental services to economically depressed communities in Central America. Student volunteers, after undergoing an orientation and specific training, learn during the trip by observing and actively help in the medical assessments and treatments of patients.

“Nothing I say will do my experience enough justice. To say it was one of the most rewarding, eye-opening experiences of my life would be an understatement. The people we met possessed the most genuine happiness with such minimalist lifestyles. I will never forget a few patients in particular,” said Ghareeb.

Ghareeb said that an 11-year-old girl walked over two hours with her brother and sister, 5 and 8 years old respectively, to the clinic. All three were complaining of joint and stomach pains; joint pains often resulted from workdays in the coffee fields and stomach pains came from parasite infections. Ghareeb said he couldn't believe an 11 year old had taken on the responsibility of getting her siblings healthy, even if it meant walking for over two hours to the clinic site.

“Nothing I say will do my experience enough justice,” Ghareeb said. “To say it was one of the most rewarding, eye-opening experiences of my life would be an understatement. The people we met possessed the most genuine happiness with such minimalist lifestyles. I will never forget a few patients in particular.”

Ghareeb is currently studying at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad in Copenhagen, where he has been accepted into a medical practice and policy program. Upon returning to campus, he plans on working with Vo to start a chapter of GMT at Bradley.