Students lead medical brigades to answer third world need

By Michelle Valigursky | EmoryWire | Feb. 3, 2013

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Emory University student Janak Bhatt 13C provides medical support to a young patient in Chichicaste, Honduras. 

The disparate communities may be thousands of miles apart, but for seven to ten days after Commencement, Emory students and villagers in Ghana and Honduras will unite with a common goal: to better individual health and wellness along with the local health care system. Emory’s Global Medical Brigades (GMB) are comprised of approximately 70 Emory student volunteers and physicians who will travel to underserved areas.  

Introducing sustainable health initiatives to communities is the primary goal for global brigades who will provide public health education, conduct physical examinations, and administer medical treatment. College sophomore Sanket Shah, GMB's president for the 2013 Honduras trip, explains both groups’ missions. “Each year for seven or ten days, Emory GMB travels to rural areas with limited access to healthcare near Tegucigalpa, Honduras and Accra, Ghana, respectively. Our undergraduate brigade functions as a mobile medical unit, setting up small clinics to diagnose and treat patients at no cost under the guidance of licensed medical professionals.”

On each trip, the brigade serves the medical needs of more than 1000 individuals. To ensure consistency of care, “electronic patient records are collected for future visitations and to monitor overall community health trends,” Shah says.

Shah is a two-time veteran of GMB trips to Honduras. His first trip freshman year “was one of the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had,” he says. “To learn about how people live in other cultures, to understand that how they work affects their medical conditions, is truly eye-opening. Even a simple act like offering headache pain relievers makes an amazing difference to individuals. We take so many things for granted at home.”

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