Earlier this month, a group of second-year Trinity students and faculty physician-supervisors traveled to Georgetown, the most northerly town on St. Vincent. They worked with the Rotary Club of St. Vincent to take part in a Village Doctor Exercise, bringing medical care to under-served communities in the small island nation. Trinity students have worked with the Rotary in this capacity for years, as the event aligns with the school’s culture of global health outreach and clinical experience. Read on to learn about what student responsibilities entailed and what both they and the faculty thought of the day.
The October exercise was conducted at the Langley Park Primary School and is open to the entire local population. Trinity professor Amrie Morris-Patterson, MD stressed the importance of community involvement for medical students. “Trinity believes in community outreach as both an opportunity to take an active role in St. Vincent and as a learning tool for our students.” Dr. Morris-Patterson continued, “We are always happy to partner with the Rotary Club of St. Vincent and the Grenadines or any other organization. We believe that what the students do, what they learn, extends far beyond their classroom, and activities like this are a part of that.”
Dr. Morris-Patterson added, “It is important for future physicians to have a knowledge of some of the things that you would see in hospitals as well as out in the community. The needs of a population might be different and present differently, then in a hospital setting. This gives them more varied exposure to patients. It improves their physician/patient relationship and sharpens their ability to relate to people who may not have the same cultural background. It helps them to have a sense of what people’s needs are in the community outside of an emergency department or even a real clinical setting. When they do become physicians and policymakers, they’ll carry that with them.”
The students were responsible for the first segment of the process, the triage area. Hundreds of locals had come to the exercise to secure medical attention from the visiting specialists, including but not limited to: general medicine, pediatrics, dentistry, ophthalmology, gynecology, and general surgery, most of which were Trinity or Milton Cato faculty. Additionally, a pharmacy was on hand to provide the necessary medication.
The triage area proved to be extremely busy for several hours. Under the doctor’s supervision, Trinity students checked all vital signs including blood pressure and blood sugar. Notes were then taken on each patient’s medical history as well as any medical complaints.
When asked to comment, Trinity second-year student Chelsea Travis said, “People are very receptive today, they know why we’re here and care about their health.” She continued, “I’m doing vitals, and I’m an integral part of what’s to come for each of these patients, so I want to make sure my work is accurate and I’m following protocol, that way when they go to the next step, the doctors and surgeons will have the right information.” She appreciated the fact that Trinity affords its students the opportunity to participate in these events. “I think it’s good to have your basics solid. As a physician, you should know how to do almost everything to some extent, and do it well. So, I think this is good to make sure that I have an understanding of the foundational things that I will continue to build upon in Baltimore.”
Reuben John, president of the Rotary Club, was happy at the continued impact of the Village Doctor exercise, not just in providing care itself but reminding the greater St. Vincent community that there are members that need help and can struggle to find it. He added on Trinity specifically, “Trinity has shared the program with us for a number of years and because of that, they have become familiar with the environment, the communities, and the process. We look forward to working with Trinity students. We appreciate the service they bring and thank them tremendously.”
The next village doctor exercise will take place in early 2019. Trinity students will be ready to lend a hand again.