Even with the end of medical school in sight, a handful of fourth-year UF College of Medicine students took what they learned in the classroom and applied it to real-world challenges by treating patients and mentoring younger students during Global Health Education trips around the world.
Instead of hitting the beach during spring break, five teams made up of medical students and faculty left Gainesville to care for the underserved populations of Ecuador, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, the Yucatan peninsula and Haiti.
Fourth-year medical student Philip Gilbo, who is the Class of 2014 president, traveled to a small, rural community outside San Carlos, Nicaragua for his fourth trip. His team partnered with Christian Medical and Dental Association’s Global Health Outreach to treat the residents of seven surrounding villages.
“I was amazed by the character and integrity of the physicians and fellow students that I worked with from the U.S.A., and how they partnered with local physicians and churches to improve health outcomes,” Gilbo said. “After that first year, I was hooked.”
More than half of all UF medical students participate in the clinical and research overseas trips during their medical school careers. Students learn firsthand about the health inequities that exist in these countries, and are able to help meet the needs for health and dental services for community members.
Lindsay Schaefer Flynn, a fourth-year student who plans to specialize in orthopaedic surgery, went on the DR HELP trip to Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic for her second outreach trip.
“I remember thinking as a second year — who only knew what I read in my textbooks and learned in the classroom — how much I would love to come back when I knew more about actual patient care,” Flynn said.
“I also love teaching. I knew that going as a fourth-year student would allow me to teach the underclassmen, and it surely did,” she added. “Not only was I able to teach them about diagnoses and patient care, but I could also provide them with advice about the rest of medical school.”
Gilbo plans to specialize in radiation oncology. He said his experiences with Global Health Education trips inspire him to help develop future programs in underdeveloped countries.
“I’m certain there is not a single student who has been on a UF trip and not had it impact their view of medicine and choice of specialty,” Gilbo said. “For me, it reminds me of the blessings we have here in the United States. It taught me that people are people, no matter where you go, and that the same aches, pains, terrors and loves plague us all the same.”
The Global Health trips are funded by donations and fundraisers the students hold throughout the year. As a result of these and other cross-cultural experiences, many UF medical students decide to dedicate their careers to caring for underserved populations.
For more information or to donate to UF’s Global Health Education, visit www.uff.ufl.edu/Appeals/FriendsOfGlobalHealth.