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International Health Service Collaborative's trip to the Dominican Republic, 2007

Mission: Sustainable Health in Developing Country

In 2007, an interdisciplinary student health organization, International Health Service Collaborative (IHSC), continued their collaboration with the Peace Corps to facilitate community projects in the Dominican Republic. The group spent an entire semester preparing and fundraising for the week of hard work and learning abroad. View the pictures from their trip:
IHSC group 2007
Clinic patients Dominican Republic
Checking in patients IHSC 
Patients at clinic in DR 
Group PhotoThe trip began with an enthusiastic welcoming ceremony organized by the women and children of the village with smiles, singing and a lot of excitement. Closely interacting with the community is a key element of every IHSC project. Every day USF Health students divided into small groups and ate home-cooked Dominican meals with families from the community. Several students had the opportunity to experience a home-stay to gain a better understanding of how the people live and what life is like without electricity or running water. As medical student Donald Thometz reported, "What I liked most about our visit to the Dominican were the people. Before visiting, I expected to see sad people in a deprived environment. What I saw instead was a small population of the most colorful, energetic and resourceful people I had ever met. After this trip my feelings of sympathy towards them dissipated only to be replaced with high respect."

Throughout the week USF Health students worked on community projects such as constructing ventilated improved pit latrines and building chicken coops. Medical, nursing, public health and physical therapy students all had a hand in the many construction tasks, from digging seven foot pits to mixing cement or cutting wood. As Samantha Choudhury, MPH candidate for COPH said, "One of our goals was to motivate the community and promote a sense of ownership for the latrine project. It was a great feeling watching our students shoveling, digging, sawing, and hammering side by side with the community members." We exceeded our project goals by completing ten chicken coops and two latrines, and starting construction on seven latrines. Medical student Danish Ahmad added, "What made the trip so rewarding was that we worked in a small community and the positive effects of our efforts could be seen almost immediately."

IHSC participated in health activities, handing out anti-parasitic medications to the community. They gave health education presentations and performed skits on such topics as oral re-hydration therapy, dental hygiene, bacterial transmission and the importance of hand-washing. These presentations garnered active participation of the women and children. IHSC organized a small clinic that included a pharmacy, eyeglass center, and several triage stations. As a result, our accompanying physicians, along with the local doctor, assessed over 200 patients in one day. Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) student Andrea Parilak said, "The trip to the Dominican Republic with IHSC was an amazing and rewarding experience; I went there intending to impact people's lives and I left having my own life impacted more than I ever imagined."

IHSC's visit to the Dominican Republic illuminated the vast need for health professionals in all disciplines to actively participate in health projects to help close health disparities. This trip introduced the students to many families experiencing these disparities. The relationships established in La Sabana personalized and validated IHSC's resolve to continue the mission to establish sustainable health projects both abroad and at home.

-Gloria Santayana, IHSC