Four days in Nicaragua as a physician assistant student treating 1,277 patients with conditions ranging from severe dehydration to parasitic infections to farm-related injuries—without the aid of blood tests or clean water.
That’s exactly what I did this past March with a team of 65, which included my 41 Arcadia University classmates and physicians, medical and nursing students from Penn State University.
The medical mission to Mancotal, Nicaragua, was possible after we raised more than $74,000 for the trip.
My name is Alexandra Martinez, and I am currently a dual degree Physician Assistant and Public Health student at Arcadia University in Philadelphia. Originally from New York City, I came to Arcadia to pursue international opportunities after working for eight years as a dental assistant in a predominantly underserved Latino community.
As a Hispanic woman, my cultural and racial ties and experiences drive my pursuits to work with the underserved and international communities.
As a future physician assistant with an undergraduate degree in biology from St. Francis College, I aspire to work in various countries where my expertise in both medical science and public health serve as an asset in treating the health of individuals and whole communities alike.
My medical mission to Nicaragua has been a good start toward my goal.
On our first day in Mancotal, we were greeted by community members and welcomed with cultural dances and heartfelt gratitude for the journey we had embarked on. Their appreciation of the work we were doing was far more grandiose than we expected.
For four days we traveled two hours each way to a small school in Mancotal, where we set-up our clinic.
The clinic, which included a women’s health room, a dental station, and a pharmacy, was made up of three triage stations and six consultation rooms. Together we treated countless patients with parasitic infections, cases of dehydration, farm-work related injuries and unrelenting headaches.
Our patient goal for four clinic days was 800: by the end, we had seen 1, 277 patients.
By the end of the fourth day, we had gained from the community more than they could’ve ever gained from us. While we provided them with basic medical care, they awarded us a new perspective on life that could never be repaid.
This trip to Nicaragua was undoubtedly life changing; it allowed me to test my clinical and public health skills in a setting where neither blood tests nor clean water were available, pushing me to go the extra step in treating each patient.
Trips like this are what make the physician assistant profession unique in its versatility; we can wear many hats, each ultimately improving patient outcomes.
My advice after being in Manctoal is to take any international opportunity that presents itself.
We live very differently than the rest of the world, and while that may be easy to understand on paper, it takes on an entirely different meaning when we actually experience it. It is a great time to be a PA, but it is an even better time to expand our knowledge base, experiences and people to worlds we wouldn't otherwise have known
This post was written by: Alexandra Martinez, PA-S, Arcadia University Physician Assistant Program. It was featured in the August 2014 edition of our PAGH Nexus Newsletter.