“Today is a great day for us. It’s a celebration!” Those are the words John Roache, recipient of the Caribbean Community Service Award and a local leader on Mayreau, used to describe the Village Doctor Exercise, a longrunning collaboration between the Rotary Club of SVG and Trinity School of Medicine. Students and professors of Trinity made up the over fifty volunteers that undertook the two-hour journey to Mayreau laden with medical supplies, eye glasses, and wheelchairs.
Mayreau is the smallest of the inhabited island of the Grenadines. It has an area of 1.5 sq. miles and a population of 271. The island is isolated, accessible only by boat. He reported that, “Presently we do have a clinic but it is not functioning because there is no resident doctor or nurse. Emergencies go to the Union Island hospital and the doctor there makes a visit here once per month.” The residents of Mayreau embraced the opportunity to receive medical attention from number of specialists including general practitioners, an internist, a pediatrician, an ophthalmologist, an ENT specialist, and a dentist. A well-stocked pharmacy was also available to provide patients with any prescribed medication. The impact of the event is so great, many traveled across five miles of open water from Union Island to seek attention from the doctors and their student helpers.
The first point of contact for each visiting patient came through the students of Trinity School of Medicine. Trinity students, under expert supervision, controled the triage area, where consultation began. A group of ten students worked in smaller groups of two allowing greater patient confidence and speedier processing. Patients were presented, and the students interacted with them so as to ascertain symptoms of their problems. They completed vital sign checks, recorded all their information, and then sent them on to any appropriate specialists.
Each of the fifth term students expressed pleasure at being given the opportunity to participate in the outreach. They all welcomed yet another chance to interact with patients. Student James Goettel summed it up quite appropriately when he said, “This was an amazing experience. I’ve always wanted to do be able to do outreach within my medical training, and to have a chance to do this and see these patients who hadn’t seen doctors for months or even years is great. It was a great day overall.”
Rob Kidnie was similarly ecstatic, adding, “The experience was incredibly rewarding. We’re still medical students, still learning how to be doctors so to be able to play such a part in these people’s lives means everyone benefits. We formed a great bond: they come in, and are looking to us for answers in a lot of cases. We made sure they ended up seeing the right doctor. That challenged us to be professional, to rely on the skills we’ve learned.”
Kathryn Bakkum continued the sentiment, noting that, “Being the first point of contact feels so good.” She elaborated, “I’ve spent the last two years working so hard, and to be sitting there with them at the table, being the person they talk to about their issues, is so amazing. This entire day has been eye-opening.” She expressed her gratitude to Trinity for such an opportunity stating that, “It feels good, and it goes to show that what they are doing at Trinity is definitely teaching us what we need to know. We have access to really good professors, some of whom are here [volunteering on Mayreau]. They have definitely given us the tools and the knowledge that we need in order to get this done.” She said that the opportunity was great for the students shortly returning to the United States and Canada, as experiences like those set them apart from others in those countries. “This kind of experience is so much different. No other medical students in the world could say that they have this experience. We have. It is really awesome to put things which we learned into practice, and to be here for people who don’t have regular access to medical care, I think it is important.”
Then, at the end of the day’s work John Mowrey gushed with satisfaction, “It great to get some hands-on experience. We’ve spent a lot of time in the books for the last two years and we have visited the hospital but getting to interact with an entire community here throughout the day was very special and rewarding.”
When triaging was complete, students were redeployed to observe the specialists as they worked, providing additional experience. Professors of Trinity also gave of their service. Dr. Andreas Reymann, senior associate dean for academic affairs and evaluations, and professor of pharmacology, listened in on the students as they triaged patients, offering additional advice and then directed patients to their respective specialists. Dr. Dr. Jamil Ibrahim, assistant professor in clinical medicine provided services as an internal medicine specialist, as did Dr. Raju Panta as a general practitioner, a crucial need for the patients.
The Trinity students processed a total of 122 patients, with each person seeing a minimum of two specialists, and as Rob Kidnie so triumphantly put it, “With a few exceptions among our counterparts back home [in the US and Canada], no one gets to do anything as clinical or as relevant and as helpful as the Rotary Village Doctor exercises.” A group of tired, satisfied medical students made themselves ready to embark on the two-hour return trip to mainland St. Vincent. It was a day well spent.