UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSIONS at WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY in ST. LOUIS

Service Spotlight: Timmy Global Health

Earlier this summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in Timmy Global Health’s annual weeklong service trip to Monte Cristi, a small town on the northwestern corner of Dominican Republic near the Haitian border.

Timmy Global Health is a national organization that aims to expand access to healthcare and empower students and volunteers to tackle today’s most pressing global health challenges. To do so, they send medical service teams to support the work of their international partner organizations. Short term service teams are limited in their ability to really address complex health challenges, but by focusing on the partnership between Timmy and their partner organizations, communities can improve health outcomes in a systematic and profound way.

By serving, fundraising, and advocating, WashU’s student chapter helps address such issues through outreach. On our campus specifically, we’ve organized weekly Muffin Monday fundraisers, Timmy Turkey Trot 5k race, a whole week dedicated to tackling global health discourse called Timmy Week, and volunteering locally to tackle public health issues in the St. Louis community. Towards the end of first semester, applications for the service trip open up to Timmy members in good standing and the Service Trip Leader will look over applications.

The culmination of these efforts is our annual service trip to Monte Cristi, where we work with our partner organization Banelino, an organization that provides “programs and services directed toward professional development, education, health, housing improvements, nutrition, sports, culture, and caring for the environment” for the bateys, or banana plantations communities (Banelino). We worked with Dr. Miguel Garcia, the Director of Medical Programs for Banelino in addition to representatives from Timmy’s national branch to serve the batey communities throughout the week.

My preparation for the trip was getting all of the vaccinations needed, including malaria medication, arming myself with enough bug repellent to prevent mosquito bites (though it wasn’t really all that helpful), packing breathable clothes for the hot and humid weather of this Caribbean island, and bringing a water bottle, since tap water isn’t safe. Going into the week, I was extremely nervous because I don’t know any Spanish and the DR is a primarily Spanish speaking country. Thankfully, on the night before our first clinic day, we were acquainted with local interpreters who were fluent in both Spanish and English. I felt a little more at ease and ready to tackle the coming day.

Throughout the week we worked in different batey communities with both Dominican and Haitian patients. As student volunteers, we helped out with different medical professional stations, including, history where we got patient medical history and other general information, triage where we acquired vitals with our nurse volunteer, consult where we worked with four primary care physicians to scribe for them, optometry where we worked with optometrists and helped with vision tests, and pharmacy where we helped count and dispense medications. Each day held new challenges, surprises, and rewards: I memorized dosages associated with different medications; I helped Dr. Melody and our interpreter Paul diagnose a girl who had epilepsy, listen to the heartbeat of a pregnant woman’s unborn child, help a mother with her horrible asthma; I struggled in optometry with vision tests and dilation drops because of my lack of Spanish skills. The bateys rarely had running water and electricity and were in very impoverished conditions, but they make do with what they have and they are still happy.

If you are ever considering service trips, try one that that’s an abroad experience. It was so rewarding working with medical professionals volunteers from all over the country who came together for a common cause. You learn so much about yourself: how you work with others, how you like your work environment, and how to interact with people who are just like yourself but with different circumstances.  You learn to appreciate what you have and not to take advantage of the simple things in life, like being able to go to a Walgreens or a CVS to pick up Benadryl or Tylenol. We also got to be immersed in the Dominican culture throughout the week as well. From hanging out with the interpreters after hours, to exploring El Morro, to trying local cuisine at the local seafood restaurant, to exploring a local carnival, to enjoying live music and dancing, we really had a taste of Dominican culture and life when we were there for that week.

The entire week was such an adventure and I learned so much. I hope that next year I can participate on the service trip again. It was an amazing experience working with the patients, other students, and medical professionals. I can’t wait to see what next year brings for Timmy Global Health! Be sure to check out our booth at the Activities Fair!

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sorority squattin’ squad vs. wind on El Morro

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beach day! read: unfortunate tans and burns

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After a delicious meal at Coco Mar, a local seafood restaurant