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ULM nursing students helping change lives in Dominican Republic

Nearly 1,000 treated on medical mission trip

Office of Marketing & Communications

Published September 18, 2017



Twenty-six students and four faculty members from the University of Louisiana Monroe Kitty DeGree School of Nursing took a four-day trip to the Dominican Republic this summer to participate in a medical mission trip. 

The trip was in collaboration with the Good Samaritan Hospital in LaRomano, D.R. This hospital sends medical groups out into 180 small communities throughout the sugarcane fields in southern Dominican Republic to help people who would otherwise have a hard time receiving medical care. 

“The people in these communities are very poor, have no transportation, live without electricity and running water and they cannot drive an hour or more away for medical care,” said Dr. Rhonda Hensley, Associate Director of the ULM Graduate Nursing Program and Associate Professor in the School of Nursing. She coordinated the trip.

“They depend on these medical groups for their health needs,” Hensley said.

The ULM group raised money before embarking on the trip to be able to purchase the medicines and medical supplies used each day.

Brittany Stagg, a ULM nursing student, lets a young
patient use her stethoscope while on a medical mission
trip to the Dominican Republic. The 26 students and
four faculty members made the four-day trip in the
summer. The nursing students raised money and took
more than $10,000 worth of medication, supplies and
toys to the island nation in the Caribbean. Courtesy photo

“We were able to take over $10,000 worth of medication, several suitcases of toys and hygiene products, and were able to serve nearly 1,000 patients in four days,” said Brittany Stagg, a nursing major who participated in the trip.

Seeing 250 patients per day wasn’t easy. The students divided into two groups to increase efficiency by covering two communities each day. 

The students set up a clinic in each community to check the patients and take their blood pressure prior to sending them to a doctor or a nurse practitioner. When the patients were sent to the pharmacy, the students helped them get their medication. Finally, each patient received a food basket and hygiene products at the end of the day. The children also received toys.

“Nearly everyone was malnourished and had some type of worm in their system,” said Stagg. “Hypertension and diabetes go untreated in these areas, children, whose best toy was pushing around a water bottle on a stick, had severe protein deficiencies and flies often surrounded wounds we tried to treat.”

Savannah Evans, a nursing major who participated in the trip, said most people are aware of the fact that people in the Dominican Republic live in poor conditions. However, one cannot even begin to fathom how bad they truly are until he or she experiences them. 

“We are so blessed for the luxuries that we have here in our country,“ said Evans. “Even those who don’t have very much (in the U.S.), still have more than the people in the Dominican Republic. I still appreciate the fact that I can walk into my kitchen and have an ice-cold water.” 

At the end of each working day, the students jumped up and played with local children, bringing lots of giggles and smiles. 

“I met a special needs child that I was able to decorate a cupcake, feed the cupcake, dance and laugh with,” said Evans. “It was one of the most amazing, humbling experiences and something that will always be a special moment to me.”

Hensley said the trip was important for the students to realize that even though people live in different circumstances, they all have common needs as human beings.

“We all need health, respect and caring,” said Hensley.

Hensley said the students far exceeded her expectations.

“They represented their university, their school of nursing and their country in such an admirable fashion,” said Hensley. “Their energy and compassion constantly amazed me and their willingness to work never failed.”

The group was rewarded for their effort to better the world toward the end of the mission by visiting Saona Island where they spent a day on a beach.

University of Louisiana Monroe student nurses and faculty members join other volunteers and locals for Sunday morning services. The ULM group spent four days in the Dominican Republic providing medical care to rural communities. Courtesy photo