UConn Global Medical Brigades to expand
Published: Monday, September 17, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 23:09
Shreena Desai has traveled across the world to help strangers she’s never met.
With UConn Global Medical Brigades, Desai, a 7th-semester biomedical engineering major, traveled to Ghana to provide medical relief to locals.
The UConn Global Medical Brigades has sent UConn students to provide medical and dental care to local villages in Honduras, Ghana and Panama, and will be expanding with a trip to Nicaragua this year.
“This January, UConn Global Brigade is going to travel to Nicaragua on a combined Medical and Public Health Brigade. We will also be returning to Ghana in May,” said 7th-semester molecular and cellular biology major Tom Presti, who added that the Nicaragua trip will take the place of the annual trip to Honduras.
This year will be the first time the group travels to Nicaragua, reflecting the growth and expansion of the program to new countries.
The group, which is entirely student-run, spends just under two weeks in each country, setting up clinics and pharmacies in school classrooms where they see locals and provide much- needed medical and dental care.
UConn Global Brigades is part of the larger international parent organization, Global Medical Brigades, which has chapters all over the United States, Canada and handful of European countries.
According to the group’s Facebook page, the UConn Global Medical Brigades “strive to bring quality, sustainable medical, public health, water and micro-finance initiatives to developing communities.”
“We saw a lot of cases of malaria. Many of the workers are farmers and fishermen with body aches, and children who suffered from malnutrition. There just isn’t enough food,” said Desai.
Students in Desai’s group worked alongside Ghanaian doctors seeing patients and providing prescriptions for medicine they brought with them from the United States.
The students also walked door-to-door through the village asking residents about health issues and educating them on proper nutrition, personal healthcare and hygiene.
One of the challenging aspects of providing medical care in a country like Ghana, where local witch doctors still provide a trusted source of medical insight, is aiding and educating the local population without lecturing them or stepping on the toes of tradition.
“You have to draw a fine line between their traditions while still teaching them how to take care of themselves,” said Desai.
For Global Medical Brigades, providing locals with the knowledge of personal hygiene is the most important way to combat the main issues. “The medicine we provide is just a temporary cure for the sickness. The fundamental root to providing long-term care is by sharing knowledge of a living an overall better holistic lifestyle,” said Desai.
The accomplishments and impact of the UConn chapter of Global Brigades are especially impressive considering the group is entirely student-run. “From planning the trip, to participating in the brigade, to even raising additional money for expensive procedures for patients we saw on a past brigade, students are the driving force,” said Presti. From booking flights to contacting foreign government officials, the group and their efforts are student-run from start to finish.
Students participating in the volunteering trips work throughout the year to raise funds to cover travel expenses. For students looking to get involved with UConn Global Brigades, meetings are held at the Student Union at 9 p.m. on Tuesdays.