Mission to Guatemala: Energy, Laughter and Happiness

by Kristina Mertz, Meghan Chen, and Allison Lane
KristinaMeghan's HeadshotAllison's Headshot
This week has flown by faster than any of us had expected considering our rocky start. It is crazy to think that today was our last day of clinics here in Guatemala. Thursday's Blog PictureToday we were blessed enough to serve at Escuela Esperanza surrounding ourselves with kids full of energy, laughter, and happiness. The mission of this school was to break the cycle of poverty through education and empowerment, which motivated us to continue on through the heat of the day.

At the end of the day, we had our usual debriefing meeting where we reflected upon 1 Corinthians 1: 12-19. In this passage, it discusses how “God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” This scripture made us realize how God has given each individual on this team special abilities and talents that has allowed us to work together as a team. Similar to the Body of Christ, health care is made up of many different parts and roles. Our team is made up of students from pharmacy, physical therapy, social work, and nursing. Over the past week, we have realized the importance of integrating interdisciplinary roles in order to serve the people of Antigua. We all have our own individual strengths but we also know it is okay to ask for help when we need it.

Thursday's Blog Picture 2It is so rewarding to know that we were able to provide health care for so many people over this short amount of time. None of this would be possible without each of us coming together to form a team, for the sum of our efforts are greater than the parts we each play. Each of us will walk away with a stronger understanding of how we can serve others as the Body of Christ.

As Jesus says in Matthew 25:40, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Mission to Guatemala: God came through. . .

by Shelley Robert, Adjunct Professor and
Nurse Practitioner, Vanderbilt Trauma Center

“Your word, Lord, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.
Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.” -Psalm 119:89-90

Leading the students on this trip has reinforced and renewed my faith in several ways. As a newcomer to Guatemala, as a rookie leader of a student trip, and as a nurse practitioner who practices in a highly organized healthcare system with ample resources, this trip presented many challenges and fears. I was not able to solve these challenges by my own volition or control, therefore I asked God to give me the strength and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. I breathed this prayer under my breath many times throughout the week, as I walked up to obviously sick women and children. And He responded. Our student team saw many very sick patients who literally had no other option outside of us. We are practicing in a rural area where many families live in great poverty, and they do not have the resources to provide healthcare for their families. Many of our Guatemalan friends, when I questioned their medical history, had never been seen by a doctor. We saw a variety of illnesses, ranging from children with chronic respiratory illness to a woman with dengue fever and impending hypovolemic shock. I prayed so many times during these examinations, for God to help me remember my training and to give me direction for how to best care for these very sick people. Cellular networks were unreliable, and we had no use for all the fancy & informative apps on our phones. But God came through for us. He answered my prayers, in all His goodness and grace. He helped me to recall the knowledge and skills that go unused in my day-to-day profession, which is highly specialized and not at all similar to the primary care/international medicine practice that we needed with these patients. He also gave me a brilliant multidisciplinary team of health science students and other leaders who were passionate and excited to lend their fresh expertise in a new perspective. God is faithful. Our prayers are a reminder of our reliance on God, as we humbly and desperately invite Him to fill us with faith and strength.

Mission to Guatemala: The Journey to Antigua

by Jon Ashton, Pharmacy Student

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From left to right: Shelby Hood (Pharmacy – 4th year), Meghan Chen (Nursing – 2nd year), Jonathan Ashton (Pharmacy – 1st year) in Antigua, Guatemala

Each of us has our own journey, our own path to walk. Some paths are easy, some are hard. Some smooth, some rocky. Some are flat, and some never seem to stop going uphill. Each of us has parts of our journey that are wonderful and some which are not, and some parts that help us find meaning in that journey.

For one week, a group of 22 students and faculty at Belmont University has come together to walk a part of our journey together. We have decided to journey together to Antigua, Guatemala in order to spend that time in service of others.

Our journey got off to a hectic start. We were scheduled to arrive at 4AM Sunday morning at Nashville International Airport in order to be prepared to board our pre-dawn flight to Houston and then on to Guatemala City. We checked in, shuttled through security, and boarded the plane, only to have the captain announce over the intercom that we would be delayed for fog in Houston. We stood up sleepily, trudged off the plane and waited, where but ten minutes later, we were invited back onto the plane after the captain had verified that in fact their equipment was sufficient to land in fog. This time, it was time to go! We taxied out onto the runway and waited for the word that we were cleared to take off. No_go_for_Houston_030616Some 45 minutes later, another passenger not in our party passed out and required medical attention, so we taxied back to the gate, only to find that there was no gate available. By then, the passenger had recovered, more embarrassed than anything else, but by this time, we’d lost enough time that it was impossible for us to make it to Houston in time to catch our connecting flight to Guatemala City. We were asked to deplane again. Strike two. Our faculty leadership sprang into action and spent 20 minutes with the gate attendant trying to find an option to reroute our flight and get us to Guatemala that day. Unfortunately, it was not to be. The next available flight was the following day. Strike three. We were out. Our only option was to return the following morning, once again at 4AM. A rocky start indeed.

Guatemala_City_from_the_air_030616Monday morning came, and by 4AM, each of us had returned to the airport ready to go, a little wearier from lack of sleep and a little warier of bad luck. This time, however, our luck was good. The skies were clear enough to fly on schedule, and we had an uneventful pair of flights to Guatemala City. The city itself is nestled in among verdant mountains with colorful buildings dotting the landscape as we approached. It was clear that the city was a modern city, but with a soul that was unique and different from that which we know in Nashville. The colors were vibrant, the people energetic, and there seemed to be a well-organized chaos directing traffic. It took an hour and a half by van to reach Antigua along a highway which might be described as an unhurried rush. No horns sounded angrily. Motorcycles weaved through traffic. People went about their day.

Calles_de_Antigua_030616As we reached Antigua, the feel changed. The town was smaller, the architecture took on a less modern and more colonial Spanish aspect. The roads were cobblestone. Amidst the historic charm of the city, there was a rougher edge to be seen. There were bars on windows, heavy steel grates, prominent locks, and walls with broken glass embedded in the tops to prevent burglars from jumping over. It was clear there are parts of the town that are less safe than we are used to. It was also clear that there was a very real need for people like us to come and offer what training, knowledge, and skills that we have.

Having been delayed a full day, our contact, a businessman named Pablo, informed us that a doctor was seeing patients and that many were waiting for us to arrive to help screen her patients. Once again, our leadership sprang into action, directing a few of us to drop off our bags at the residence, and setting up the various stations of the clinic. There were stations for vital signs, for blood glucose screening, an eye exam, and a limited pharmacy set up with the medications we brought from Tennessee. We saw over eighty patients, mostly elderly women, but included a few children and teenagers as well.

One patient in particular, an elderly woman of over eighty years, came to the clinic with leg pain. She told her story of chronic, severely debilitating leg pain that kept her housebound, confined to a wheelchair, unable to walk or work. She felt a burden to her adult daughter who cared for her. When we asked what we could do, she asked if we would pray with her. Sydney didn’t hesitate. She asked for a translator to join her and the patient’s daughter for a prayer. The bowed their heads. Sydney prayed. The translator translated. As the prayer was offered, those around the room took notice. Many bowed their heads and joined the prayer. Many others in the crowded, busy room heard the words and their eyes glistened as they asked God for strength, for guidance, and for love. When she was done, she said ‘Amen’ and offered a hug to the woman, who returned it with tears in her eyes.

There are times along our journey when our path intersects the path of another. On this day, the relatively smooth path of 22 young travelers crossed many paths: a young, inquisitive boy in for a check-up, a young girl with a persistent cough, a young mother with a sick infant, an elderly grandmother with leg pain, and countless others. Each day, we have the chance to make a difference, to reach out and offer comfort in a time of need, to help make the journey of a fellow traveler a little easier.

Mission to Guatemala: Tuesday

DSC_0320by Carolina Cerrato, Nursing Student

DSC_0240Today was a day both challenging and gratifying as my team and I tackled our second day serving those in Antigua, Guatemala. We had the opportunity to visit a clinic for the elderly, as well as a women’s clinic, and continued running general health screenings there. With today being our second day there were definitely more expectations in terms of what we were capable of, however, there was not a single challenge that one of my team members did not rise to meet. I am continually blown away by the energy, passion, and focus that each one of these individuals has for providing healthcare, and even more astounded by the love they have for a people they’ve only just met. As I walked from room to room within the clinic there were several instances when entire groups of people would have their hands over someone in prayer, which was incredible to me, because not only did it serve as a reminder of why we are here (for Jesus!), but it showed just how much of a team we have already become – united under Christ.

As we continue throughout this week I am excited and anxious to see how we grow together and as individuals. With only a few days left to provide care, we are eager to see how the Lord can continue to use us to love and care for His people. Bendiciones,
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Pharmacy professor featured in story about his service in Guatemala

HobsonGuatemalaDr. Eric Hobson, professor of pharmacy at Belmont, was recently featured in a story in CrossMap about his service (and that of his family and college) at the Moore Pediatric Surgery Center in Guatemala.  CrossMap is a digital Christian living magazine published by The Christian Post.

Dr. Hobson was instrumental in connecting Belmont’s College of Pharmacy with the Moore Center at its inception.  The Center was opened in 2011 by The Shalom Foundation in Nashville which owns and operates the facility.

Dr. Hobson provided guidance to students as they created the Center’s pharmacy.  “The hospital needed a pharmacy, so I worked with a colleague to design one for the facility and in May of 2011 we brought several students here and opened the pharmacy,” he related.  Since then, Belmont student have provided about 95% of the pharmacy services at the Moore Center.

Read the entire story here.

Pharmacy students and faculty serve in Guatemala

Guatemala-Pharmacy-TripA team from Belmont’s College of Pharmacy recently spent 10 days in Guatemala City, Guatemala as part of a multidisciplinary surgical mission team serving at The Moore Pediatric Surgery Center. Led by Professor of Pharmaceutical, Social and Administrative Sciences Dr. Eric Hobson, three students – Shelby Blalock, Anais Fraire and Tayler Storrs – served the hospital’s hospitality and outreach team, charged with meeting the patients’ and hospital staff’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Continue reading

2015 Mission to Guatemala: Final Day

FullSizeRenderTeam Nursing/Pharmacy
from Pharmacy Faculty Members
Elisa Greene & Edgar Diaz-Cruz, and
Nursing Faculty Member Jamie Adam

Our team returned safely to Nashville just before midnight last night with exhausted, yet fulfilled students and faculty. This unique Springbreak experience gave students an incredible opportunity to be immersed not only as American students in the Guatemalan culture, but also as an inter-professional healthcare team. Nursing, OT, Pharmacy students and a student majoring in Communications, learned how to leverage each other’s strengths to provide quality care to the people of Guatemala. Within the majors, students had various degrees of experience. Graduate students were mentoring undergraduates, seniors were mentoring freshman, and faculty were facilitating meaningful inter-professional learning experiences.

As most international trips go, students and faculty were challenged to be flexible about their own expectations and use the unexpected as “teachable moments.” In addition, our team had to learn to manage the people’s expectations of what we could provide. There was much we could offer, but in some cases, we had to acknowledge our own limitations. Regardless of whether we could identify a problem or a need, our patient might not be able to afford a physician or the medications needed. Continue reading

2015 Mission to Guatemala: Day 6

Two separate teams of health science students are in Guatemala over Spring Break this year.  One team consists of nursing and pharmacy students.  The other includes OT and PT students.  Both  team are writing about their experiences.

ToriPowersDanielleMarshallGabiOkoniewskiTeam Nursing/Pharmacy
from Gabi Okoniewski, Danielle Marshall
& Tori Powers

A week ago, none of us knew what exactly we were getting into as we traveled to Antigua, Guatemala. Now a week later, our expectations of this trip have been far exceeded and our perspectives have changed. Not only have we learned about the culture here in Antigua, but we have also learned more about our own culture in America. Collaborating with the different professions this week has given us all a greater appreciation for the different disciplines in the healthcare field. This was a great experience that could not be matched by any other.

1Guatemala15Top reasons why YOU should come on the Guatemala Spring Break Immersion Trip

-There is 75 degree weather everyday and there are NO mosquitos!

-The creation of new friendships.

-Cultural compentance within the city.

-Having the ability to interact with the kids at both the coffee plantation school and the God’s Children School. Continue reading

2015 Mission to Guatemala: Day 5

Two separate teams of health science students are in Guatemala over Spring Break this year.  One team consists of nursing and pharmacy students.  The other includes OT and PT students.  Both  team are writing about their experiences.

KandiceSquiresErinOakleyErinToddTeam Nursing/Pharmacy
from Erin Todd, Erin Oakley,
Kandice Squires, Noah Ploegman &
Justin Beasley

Today our group drove to San Luca, a small town ten minutes from Antigua, to visit a pharmaceutical manufacturer called PharmaDel. JustinBeasleyNoahPloegmanHere we had the unique opportunity to observe the medication manufacturing process first-hand. It was exciting for us as future pharmacists to follow a medication from its raw form into its final packaged product ready to be distributed across Central America. We were impressed with the level of dedication and integrity demonstrated by plant employees.

After observing these processes for both solid and liquid medication formulations, our tour then shifted focus from the manufacturing aspect towards PharmaDel`s quality assurance measures. The technology and lab techniques used to evaluate the purity of the medication produced are very similar to those which we use in our country. 1Guatemala11Special air pressurization, filtration systems, and room design functioned to enhance sterility and prevent contamination. PharmaDel is working towards becoming certified by the World Health Organization as meeting their highest standards for pharmaceutical manufacturing. It was surprising to our group that most of the drug development and quality assurance measures were performed by pharmacists, however, the guide explained to us that this is a common role for pharmacists in Guatemala. To become licensed, students complete 5 years of post-high school general and pharmacy education, plus 6 months each in a hospital and laboratory practice setting. Finally, they complete an internship in one of these areas, which often leads to employment. Continue reading

2015 Mission to Guatemala: Day 4

Two separate teams of health science students are in Guatemala over Spring Break this year.  One team consists of nursing and pharmacy students.  The other includes OT and PT students.  Both  team are writing about their experiences.

AlexisRheaAnnePendleyMaddyClarkeWilliamsTeam Nursing/Pharmacy
from Maddy Clarke Williams & Alexis Rhea-Anne Pendley

Language may be regional, but love is universal.

Today, we had no expectations of where we were going or what we would be doing. Upon arriving, we came to realize we were at a school that was tangible proof of how one man’s work can establish a strong community for roughly 150 students in Antigua, Guatemala. Some twenty years ago, a man’s heart was touched by God’s radiating beauty that he experienced through the children he met on a mission trip. He was inspired to give back to the children who touched him. With the little money he had, he was able to purchase a Big Mac and split it twenty ways, so every child to which he was ministering was able to have some. The man went on to create a school for these orphans that has developed through the years and now provides a safe and empowering environment. We soon realized our purpose at the school differed from our previous experiences at the coffee plantation.

1Guatemala07To begin our day, we taught the children the importance of nutrition and basic hygiene, such as washing hands and brushing teeth. To assist in our teachings, we taught the students a simple, yet catchy, song about washing their hands. After practicing this song with them several times, they requested more songs. With humble hearts and shaky voices, our group managed to quiet the area by singing Amazing Grace. Many of us later remarked on the power of the moment; though the students may not have understood the words we sang, they definitely appeared to share the same content feelings. Afterwards, the children were eager to share with us a few of the songs they had learned at school. Continue reading