Why a medical mission.....
My name is Ebony Joyner and I am currently a 3rd year Physician Assistant student at Emory University. It has never been a dream of mine to go on a medical mission trip. I have always been one of those people who said “just send them the money that you would spend getting there.” I thought I needed to spend a substantial amount of time in a place in order to make a real impact. There was no way a short-term mission could make a lasting difference…how wrong was I? It wasn’t until I participated in the 2014 South GA Farmworker Health Project (SGFHP) that I realized how much of an impact you can make on someone’s life/health in such a short period of time. SGFHP is an annual collaborative service-learning project with between Emory and South Georgia Farmworker Health Project.Typically 35-40 senior PA students work with faculty and physicians, providing free health care to 1[phone redacted] farmworkers and family members in south Georgia over twelve days of makeshift clinics in June. This was truly a humbling experience. To be able to provide such relief for someone by simply providing eye drops for dry eyes, or ibuprofen for back pain they have been dealing with for years was extremely rewarding. I originally chose to go into medicine because I’ve seen many family members and friends pass away or struggle with their health, and I felt so helpless. As I continue with my education and approach graduation (December) there are still many times where I feel helpless or as if what I’m doing simply isn’t enough. The feeling I got from SGFHP is the fulfillment I have been longing for. Those were the most appreciative patients I’ve ever had.
While at SGFHP I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Lynn Gardner who invited me to come with her on a medical mission trip that she organizes every year with her church, Kingdom Investment Ministry. The mission of the church and trip is to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and love the lost. Whether it be in Bainbridge, GA or Trelawny, Jamaica; the simple things that we take for granted every day are what I want to give back to those in need. This week long medical mission/international rotation to Trelawny, Jamaica will provide me with the opportunity to expand my world views, hone in on my and hone in on my medical skills all while taking into account the unique patient population and barriers to that particular community.
Trelawny is a parish in Cornwall County in northwest Jamaica. The southern section of Trelawny is part of the Cockpit Country, and is uninhabitable. According to the 2010 Economic & Social Survey Jamaica (ESSJ) the population of Trelawny is 76,000. Wealth disparity is a substantial problem in Jamaica. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) wealthy citizens are able to employ armed guards while the poor struggle simply for food, clean water, and access to health care. Jamaica is dependent on imports of food, clothing, and many other products, making these items very expensive. For many Jamaicans, more than half of their income is spent on food alone. Jamaica was recently reclassified as a lower middle income economy, averaging US $7,310 gross national income.
The public sector of the Jamaican healthcare system is provided through a network of secondary and tertiary care facilities managed by four regional health authorities. Although health care services are offered free of charge to all citizens and residents, they also are frequently described as unreliable. Jamaica is a country of moderate poverty and resources are lacking. Many public hospitals are frequently over occupied, thus basic preventative health care such as pap smears and mammograms are often not performed. Furthermore, medications for serious medical illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension are often not available due to lack of resources. The low funding from the Jamaican government and scarcity of qualified personnel further adds to the public health system that is already over-burdened by the number of patients and lack of resources. Access to health care and medical treatment is problematic and preventive care is not a priority. Often medical problems go unaddressed until advanced stages are reached. Since many Jamaicans make barely enough money to meet their daily needs, most people do not have insurance and cannot afford medical care with a private physician.
Tying it all together....
Although I’ve had this new found revelation of the impact that can be made in just a short period of time, I’m not naïve enough to believe that this will fix everything. But, what I do know is that just sending money isn’t enough. The likelihood that the money will make it to those truly in need is slim, and there is simply not enough “man power.” The resources are lacking and the providers there are already over-burdened. When there are 76,000 people and only a few facilities in the area, providers just don’t have the time to spend with patients explaining diseases and providing preventative medicine. Many of the improvements in the risk factors causing death and poor health status can be achieved with proper patient education, dietary education, stressing the importance of compliance, and the medications that Kingdom Investment Ministries provides while seeing patients. There are few of us in comparison to the number of people that need services, but this is a small step in the process of bridging the gap, one that I hope to be a part of this year and for many years to come.
Please help me in reaching my goal of $1,000 in order to participate in this trip and make a difference in the lives and health care of others in Trelawny. The money includes rountrip flight, lodging, food, and transportation in Jamaica for 1 week. No donation is too small or too big. Each person that donates will receive a personal gift of appreciation.
Trip is Oct. 11-Oct 18! Deadline to donate is October 4, 2014.
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