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April 27, 2012

ULM pharmacy students participate in Haiti outreach

University of Louisiana at Monroe faculty and students from the College of Pharmacy provided medical care and filled prescriptions during a spring break outreach trip to Mirebalais, Haiti.

The trip was a component of the Medical Outreach Elective offered in the College of Pharmacy by Dr. Elizabeth Perry, assistant professor; Dr. Jennifer Smith, assistant professor; and Dr. David Caldwell, clinical assistant professor, all of clinical and administrative sciences.

The eight student participants were Dina Abdelhalim of Alexandria, Rebecca Johnson Overmier of Loranger, Monica Hartman of Denham Springs, Alison Seaman of Oakdale, Samantha Womack of Bastrop, William Whited of Monroe, Bryan Bordelon of Eunice, and Matthew Autin of West Monroe.

"The medical outreach team was composed of amazing individuals who assisted me in bettering myself to better help the needy," said Abdelhalim.

"Through this trip I have gained a sense of pride in pharmacy and have realized that there is a greater purpose to life. It is time that we put away our own problems and take the time to touch other people's hearts even if it just means to offer them smiles, hope and comfort."

The course introduces students to various indigent populations worldwide with specific focus on the history, medical practices, healthcare availability, and current needs of one geographic area chosen yearly.

Students worked with an interdisciplinary medical team during the trip to help fill 2,000 prescriptions and administer medical care to 804 patients.

"The clinical experience of working with a multidisciplinary team was awesome," said Bordelon.

"Although our teams were small, experiencing how different thought processes work together to help a patient was a good jump start to rotations, and eventually my career."

Hosting five primary care clinics at different sites in the area, students spent time with local children and collaborated with physicians and nurses to take patient histories, develop diagnoses, and make therapeutic decisions, and also worked in the pharmacy to fill prescriptions and educate and counsel patients with the aid of translators.

Students were also responsible for patient triage, in which they screened patients and performed basic physical assessment techniques.

"The students all did an amazing job and made us very proud," said Caldwell. "They worked and lived in conditions very different than anything to which they've been previously exposed, without a single complaint."

The College of Pharmacy partnered with Southeastern Medical International, a nonprofit medical and disaster response organization, which provided the physicians and nurses and handled all the travel and in-country logistics.

"I am grateful for the lessons learned and the time spent with friends," Whited said.

"I need these types of experiences to keep foremost in my mind how much suffering there is in the world, to be thankful every day for the blessings in my life, and to help motivate me to show kindness to all."

According to Caldwell, the goal of the course is to train students to participate in and potentially lead medical outreach groups in the future.

In the didactic portion of the course, topics included finding a team, fundraising, formulary development, purchasing and transport of medications, safety and stress on the field, travel medicine, and common diseases encountered in-country.

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