In December, four UF students and Richard Dudley, Ph.D., assistant professor and chair of pharmaceutical sciences, traveled to the Lanzac region of Haiti with local Findlay organization, Mission Possible. The students were Tracey Archibald, a fourth-year pharmacy student, Sheena Burwell, a fourth-year pharmacy student, Johanna Potter, a third-year pharmacy student, and Jessica Sprang, a third-year physical therapy student.
Mission Possible has built schools in Haiti and the Dominican Republic and continues to send aid to the area. Archibald says the organization focuses on providing sustainable assistance to the Haitian people.
“For so many years, people visited Haiti and just handed out supplies to the people and it wasn’t a sustainable way for them to live,” says Archibald. “Mission Possible works to change that by providing life skills, education and ministry to really help the Haitian people improve their quality of life.”
Each day for a week, the students and Dudley woke up at 6 a.m. to travel to one of five schools where their team of 35 dentists, nurses, doctors, pharmacists and missionaries would set up a temporary clinic and see between 250-400 people in roughly six hours.
All of the students agreed that the experience was invaluable to their education.
“As a student of a health profession, being able to provide medical care to these people, who often don’t see a doctor for long periods of time was so impactful,” says Sprang. “Being able to work alongside a team of doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists and other students like myself made me so excited about my future in the medical field.”
But this rewarding experience did not come without its challenges, particularly those associated with the language barrier. Students had to communicate with patients through a translator.
“I was really impressed with what the students were able to do when communicating through a translator,” says Dudley. “All the normal distractions, like cell phones and computers, were removed and students really had to sit down and use their unique skill sets to communicate with the patients. It was great to see them use their knowledge from the classroom in another medium.”
Both the students and Dudley agree that the trip gave them more than just additional experience in the medical field.
“It was one of the greatest experiences of my life,” says Sprang. “The girl who left for Haiti was not the same girl who came home. It made me realize how much God has blessed me with and how often I forget to be thankful for the little things.”
The students say the experience gave them a completely revised perspective on life without clean drinking water, medical attention or even a quality education.
“It really opened my eyes to what life could be like,” says Burwell. “We are so used to everything being at our finger tips, this experience showed me how much I take for granted.”
Written by Katie Baumgart