I signed up for PA school knowing I would love the profession but not realizing how drastically it would change my life. I have been on one mission trip to Mexico building homes and lived in India volunteering with a school and both times very much enjoyed the experiences, but this trip was different.

My first night in Honduras, I was informed that I would have my own clinic and see my own patients. I was allowed to diagnose and prescribe without a preceptor. I felt very nervous, what if I miss something? What if I diagnose the wrong thing? I woke up early trying to read all the medications we had available and refresh my memory on pediatric dosages.

As I sat in the hammock in the middle of beautiful Honduras, the weight of what I have learned over the past 18 months hit me. I could count on one hand the number of people within 100 miles who had my medical skills. PA school has not just taught me about medicine, it has given me skills that saves lives, relieves pain and suffering, and provides healing. In our nation where health care is readily available and accessible, that statement does not bear so much weight. Now imagine you are a villager in La Concepcion, Honduras. You do not own a car or even a large animal such as an ox or a mule for transportation and you live more than 100 miles from the nearest doctor. Those were my patients.

Entire families came into the clinic together. If I thought my exams in school were tough with one English speaking patient who had one main problem (that was fictitious), this was organized chaos! We had six patients at a time speaking Spanish with a laundry list of problems each. Not to mention my Spanish speaking ability leaves much to be desired but with a medical student translating it worked. The problems were common, mostly simple issues: headache, upper respiratory infections, joint pain, rashes, yeast infections, etc.

Minor problems when you have ibuprofen, acetaminophen, hydrocortisone cream, and fluconazole easily accessible at a store down the street. In La Concepcion, I was able to provide relief in to me what seemed like small ways, but meant more than I can understand to them. I saw about 90 patients in 3 days and was richly blessed by each of their lives. Part of me wishes I had saved the life of a 5 month old baby to sound heroic for my sake.

But the reality is that this organization has provided preventative health to a rural Honduran community by meeting their basic needs and the people are in better overall health because of it. It is always such a joy to serve and as a PA student it is a very humbling, rewarding experience. Do not wait until you finish PA school to look for volunteer opportunities abroad. It is an excellent way to develop your skills while in school. I know this will not be my last medical mission trip.


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