Seven internal medicine residents at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine will travel to Amman, Jordan, in 2020 to volunteer medical services to refugees. The experience is a new opportunity for residents in the program to learn about international health while serving others.
The residents have organized the trip on their own and will travel through the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA), an organization that provides resources for physicians, dentists and other health care professionals in North America. The organization provides networking and mentoring for medical students and also has active medical relief programs and emergency relief efforts.
Residents in their second and third years will be making the trip to Jordan in February and April of 2020. Five will travel in February, while the other three will travel in April.
“This is the first time our residency program is doing this. This will be a whole new experience, and we’ll be traveling as a group,” said We’am Hussain, M.D., a 2018 graduate of the Boonshoft School of Medicine and one of the residents organizing the trip. “While we are there, we’re also going to be working on initiatives to improve conditions.”
The medical residents will serve refugees of the Syrian Civil War in mobile health clinics. Many of the refugees lack appropriate nutrition and have little knowledge about a healthy diet. Even if they’re diabetic, they don’t know that eating foods with a high glycemic index is bad for them. Many do not know that eating too much salt can contribute to hypertension.
To help combat those and other issues, Hussain and other residents are working with a dietitian who is fluent in the Arabic language. They are making informational pamphlets to distribute while they’re serving in Jordan. The pamphlets will contain details to help refugees modify their lifestyles to prevent developing chronic diseases.
“While we are there, we not only want to help medically by giving medications but also through preventive health care,” Hussain said. “We want to improve patient survival and their overall quality of life.”
In addition, the residents will implement a survey to see how they are affected by the experience. They have devised surveys to give to all of the residents traveling to Jordan. These will measure their viewpoints before the trip and how they change after returning to the United States.
“The goal of the survey is to not only see how viewpoints change toward the refugee crisis and medical volunteerism but also to analyze what we can do in the future as a residency program to better improve and maximize the experience,” Hussain said. “How can we best help our refugee patients and learn from the refugees not only medically but also socially?”
Hussain hopes the experience will help her and other residents to gain a deeper recognition of what they can do to help others with their medical knowledge. The medical volunteer trip will help them to gain a deeper appreciation of the medical needs of refugees.
It should be an incredible opportunity to give back. In addition to the refugees from Syria, the internal medicine residents may also treat refugees from Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq. Hussain expects that she and other residents will help patients to moderate their tobacco use and to learn better hygiene. With many refugees crowded into shelters, it is likely they will treat some infectious diseases as well.
“In these environments, when doctors come in, they are really helping. The refugees are miserable and suffering, but we can be there and help them with their ailments,” Hussain said. “We get to put this blessing of medical knowledge that we have to use helping a population who desperately needs it.”