I had the pleasure of watching these two students tell our President Renu Khator all about their experience in Honduras. Their heartfelt reflections will give you a sense of how formative this experience can be for anyone going into the health professions—or anyone who just plain cares. For a more up-close view, see the fantastic short video about the clinic in Honduras and our program, led by Ricardo Nuila, MD.
While working in the Shoulder to Shoulder clinic, I had the opportunity to shadow Dr. Gregorio. I listened as he spoke to a patient with lupus who could not afford to be treated in the nearest hospital. Unfortunately, our clinic is still not equipped with all the necessary diagnostic tests and medications to treat her. However, Dr. Gregorio insisted that she continue coming back to the clinic. He said that even if she could not be fully treated yet, monitoring and management of her illness with the medications that we did have in stock would still help with her pain. This was one of the most profound and memorable experiences I had at the clinic. Despite the many challenges this clinic and the people who are treated here face, everyone is persistent and resourceful. They make the best of whatever situation they face and are relentlessly working towards improving for the future. As students who have been welcomed into this community and are inspired by their resilience, vitality, and noble cause, we want to continue contributing to their growth and progress by gathering support here from the Houston community.
My experience in Honduras was nothing short of stunning. As a pre-medical student, I assumed that my interactions with patients in a foreign country would go as expected, but I never imagined that it would reveal so such about myself and the people around me.
Most medical service trips abroad follow a formula: a group travels with supplies, provides medical care to rural populations, and then leaves. I don’t mean to say this is ineffective, but the long term effects are nonetheless limited. Shoulder to Shoulder forgoes this entirely, encouraging students to not only make a medical impact in the lives of the rural community, but also supporting students involving themselves and immersing themselves into the community.
We attended Catholic churches and visited the market. There was an emphasis on learning to care for our patients by living with them. And our care does not stop once we leave Honduras. Our service continues in Houston, where we plan resources for next year and devise team activities to improve the experience for new students, track our success, and expand our influence. This is what separates Shoulder to Shoulder from every other medical service trip, because it’s not just a medical service trip. It’s a cultural experience. It’s medical care. It’s humanitarianism at its core and strives to make a permanent difference in the world.