Summer trip to Jamaica will provide health care to poor

Thomas Herchline, professor of internal medicine at the Boonshoft School of Medicine.

This summer, a group of students from the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine will travel to Jamaica to help with local health care efforts. The trip also will give them experiences and knowledge they can’t get in a classroom setting.

Many of the students going on the expedition are involved with the Global Health Initiative at the medical school, a student-run organization that enhances the education of medical students by increasing their exposure to issues facing people in other countries and those who have emigrated from other nations.

The trip is taking place in collaboration with American Caribbean Experience (ACE). The outreach ministry based in Jamaica’s St. Mary Parish is dedicated to transforming the community through various initiatives in education, business and health care.

“This is probably the poorest parish in Jamaica,” said Thomas Herchline, M.D., professor of internal medicine at the Boonshoft School of Medicine, who leads the annual trip. “We also work in coordination with the Ministry of Health, mostly using government health centers which are lacking in health care providers.”

Herchline has traveled on many medical mission trips, including this one to Jamaica. He’s also been to Bolivia, Honduras, Nicaragua and Swaziland. Each trip presents its own set of challenges.

For the two-week stint to such an impoverished area, the team tries to treat as many patients as possible.

“We typically have clinics in local communities four days per week. Other activities include organizing our supplies, which are mostly medications, and working in other ACE activities such as farming or light construction,” Herchline said. “We take one day off per week for going to the beach or visiting nearby Ocho Rios.”

The team expects to treat 600 to 800 patients during the two weeks on the island. The most common chronic problems are hypertension and diabetes. Medical students also treat routine ailments like headaches, backaches, heartburn and rashes.

Occasionally, students from medical schools other than the Boonshoft School of Medicine join the team. Also, students from other health care disciplines, including nursing, may participate. Stephen Guy, M.D., and Marylynn Herchline, M.D., are other Dayton-area physicians who travel with the medical students for the Jamaica trip.

“We intend to provide ongoing care for a significant number of Jamaicans in this impoverished area,” Herchline said. “Equally important to me is contributing to the education and development of the medical students who make this trip.”

The Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine is a community-based medical school affiliated with seven major teaching hospitals in the Dayton area. The medical school educates the next generation of physicians by providing medical education for more than 444 medical students and 443 residents and fellows in 13 specialty areas and 10 subspecialties. Its research enterprise encompasses centers in the basic sciences, epidemiology, public health and community outreach programs. More than 1,500 of the medical school’s 3,229 alumni remain in medical practice in Ohio.

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