Medical students lend a healing hand in Honduras

Two medical students at The Commonwealth Medical College, Scranton, will travel to Honduras in March on a medical mission trip.

Elizabeth Dorn and Kevin Baker are fourth-year medical students who have done their third and fourth year rotations at Williamsport Regional Medical Center and lived in Williamsport during that time.

Dorn and Baker, along with several of the Williamsport Family Medicine residents and two Susquehanna Health family medicine physicians, will fly out of Newark Airport on Saturday and return on March 8. Several of the other members of the group plan to stay for a second week.

The trip is not a requirement of their schooling, but will count for credit toward their fourth year curriculum, according to Dorn, who is using the trip as her global health interprofessional education rotation. Baker is using the trip as an infectious disease elective.

The group is working with The Mama Project and will be transported to a different village each day to set up mobile health clinics and learn to treat villagers with limited resources, according to Dorn.

Dorn’s physician mentor, Dr. David Kuhns, a family medicine physician who practices in Montoursville, has been traveling to Honduras to work with The Mama Project for several years. Kuhns encouraged Dorn to work in St. Anthony’s Free Clinic with him on Monday evenings.

“When Dr. Kuhns realized how much I enjoyed this sort of healthcare advocacy, he invited me to come to Honduras during my fourth year,” Dorn said. “Kevin is a very close friend of mine and also rotated with Dr. Kuhns during (his) third year, so we extended the invitation to him as well.”

Since the group has to pay for their trip themselves, fundraising has been done through family and friends. They also talked with physicians and healthcare providers and other local organizations that typically sponsor similar undertakings to get funding.

“One of the primary goals of our trip is to identify and flag malnourished children for continued nutritionist follow-up,” Dorn said. The Mama Project also focuses on de-worming children and treating vitamin A deficiency, two healthcare disparities particularly pertinent in Honduras.”

Dorn said her time at St. Anthony’s Clinic lead her to believe working with the villagers will be a similarly rewarding experience for her.

“I think the patients I work with in Honduras will have as much to teach me as I do them, I’m just not sure exactly what that is yet. I look forward to finding out,” she added.

Dorn said she is most looking forward to the opportunity to gain a new perspective on healthcare during her trip. She said she is becoming more comfortable with health disparities in the local area through her rotation at Williamsport Regional Medical Center, but Honduran villages promise to open up even greater learning experiences for her and Baker.

“In this sense, we’ll be completely out of our individual comfort zones and increasingly open to learning how to care for each patient with the limited resources we have at our disposal,” Dorn said. “I hope very much that we’ll be able to bring such skills and this open mind set back to our practice in Northeastern Pennsylvania.”

The group also is collecting donations to take with them to Honduras including items such as toys, crayons, coloring books, deflated soccer balls, Tylenol/acetaminophen, Motrin/ibuprofen, creams (anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, steroid), baby clothes and baby blankets.

Dorn said they had hoped to raise $3,000 before their trip to aid with their travel expenses, immunizations, room and board and translator services. They have raised just more than $800 to date through their online fundraising site

Donations can be made directly through the website or mailed to The Commonwealth Medical College Williamsport Regional Campus Office, 700 High St., Williamsport, PA 17701.

For more information about The Mama Project, visit www.mama