Thank you so much for taking time to look at our blog! We are a group of edical students who are passionate about training and in underserved areas. This January and February, we are in Peru, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica internationally as well as locally in Flint and Lansing completing volunteer service, rotating in hospitals and clinics, and learning about international medicine and local underserved health care. We appreciate any time you take to read our reflections and any donations you might offer.

Please click the “Donate” link on the side for more details on how to give directly to these communities.

Saturday, January 31

Nja Nja, Nuusu and the Nile

Hello Everyone!

After two weeks, we finally have access to Internet again! Everyone here in Uganda is safe and doing well. Since our last post, we have been busy working at the FIMRC clinic and conducting community outreach. On a daily basis, we help to staff the various stations of the FIMRC clinic. We usually have two students working with our chief medical officer, James, to see adults in the consultation room. Two more students will help our nurse, Irene, run the annex which tends to children. Other stations in the clinic include the lab (which runs blood smears, urinalysis, HIV testing, syphilis testing, etc), the dispensary, the maternal and child health clinic, and the weekly vaccination clinic. In addition to these stations, we are regularly involved in community outreach projects.

Yesterday, we set up a small mobile clinic at three different sites around the Bushika community in Bududa District. The first clinic was set up at the Bushika Junior Education Center where Irene, Stephanie, and I have been volunteering every Friday morning. Normally, we hold a weekly Girls' Empowerment Camp, however, since school just began for the semester, we opted to have the boys join us in conducting a general health check for all students. Our mobile clinic consisted of multiple stations. At the first station, students were greeted by Marsel who would ask them their age and would do a screen for any cuts requiring basic wound care. The second station provided the children with albendazole for deworming. In case you were wondering what "nja nja" means, it is the Lugisu word for "chew". After giving the children the albendazole tablets, we would make sure they had chewed them fully before moving onto the next station. Following the albendazole, all children were given a multi-vitamin and a sticker to track who had received medicine. Children with cuts requiring attention were pulled aside and given proper wound care. If we noticed that a child would benefit from further evaluation (for example, one child was noted to have scabies), we recommended that they visit the FIMRC clinic. After our visit to the Bushika Junior Education Center, we hiked to two more rural sites to provide similar care to adults and children in the community. Between these three sites, our group was able to provide care to 395 people in one day!

Our mobile clinic at the Bushika Junior Education Center. With this small set-up, we were able to provide de-worming medication, multivitamins, and basic wound care to 150 students!
A class at Bushika Junior Education Center lines up to visit our clinic
Group photo from the mobile clinic at Bushika Junior Education Center
(unfortunately Marsel's FIMRC shirt hasn't arrived yet)

In addition to our clinical work, we have also made time for some fun and relaxation! During our first weekend in Uganda, our group took a trip to Jinja to go whitewater rafting on the Nile River. Our adventure included dinner on a sunset river cruise, a full day of rafting, and a visit to the Jinja craft market.

Enjoying a river cruise on the Nile!

Our whole group ready for rafting! In this picture, we have our group of 6 MSU students along with Sally (our FIMRC field office manager), Jenny (our FIMRC intern), Sara F. (a volunteer nurse from CHOP), and Sara K. (a volunteer non-profit organization manager from California) 

Last weekend the group decided to stay in Bududa District. On Saturday, we attended the monthly Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) meeting. The OVCs are disadvantaged children from the Bududa District, most of whom are HIV positive, and have lost one or both parents. During this meeting, we spent time playing games with the children, discussing ways to improve drug adherence, and helping the children write out their goals for 2015. On Sunday, the group decided to tackle climbing Mount Nuusu, the mountain seen in the picture of our clinic from a previous post. We started our journey at 6:00am to avoid mid-day heat and spent about two and a half hours making the steep ascent to the top. Though the hike was exhausting, it was well worth the picturesque views! 

One of the many beautiful views from the top of Mount Nuusu

The group making their way down from the top of Mount Nuusu

This weekend, we have decided to spend a few days in the city of Mbale and enjoy access to hot showers and Internet! We will post more photos and send updates soon!

Monday, January 19

Hola de Costa Rica!

Hello everyone! Jen, Serena, Sara, Joyce, and I successfully made it to Costa Rica with our 240 pounds worth of donations! We got in around 1:30 on Saturday morning. Saturday was spent getting to know our host families. I live with a host family that includes my host mom, dad, two "host brothers," and last but not least my host dog Collie. Like many of the host families, my family speaks limited English, so our group is fully immersed in the Spanish language. I already feel much more comfortable with the language. On Sunday one of our host dads offered to take us on a nearby hike up a mountain. The hike was strenuous but beautiful! After that we went to a charity soccer game. We learned about the local teams which will no doubt come in handy when talking to patients in clinic!

Our first day at the clinic was very fun. The staff consists of a doctor, psychologist, director, and a housekeeper. We got oriented in the morning and got right to work! A huge task was organizing the existing pharmacy and making room for the 6 luggages full of donations we brought from the United States! The clinic was running very low on many supplies, especially vitamins for underweight children, so we thank you once again for helping us gather supplies for this clinic!

Once we unloaded everything, we organized the pharmacy so medications were easier to find. This is one half of the pharmacy before:
And after with our additions:

We spend our time in the morning either seeing patients with the doctor or psychologist, running the pharmacy and explaining medications to patients, and doing patient intake. Many of the clinic's patients are Nicaraguan immigrants that come to Costa Rica so their kids can take advantage of the public health care and school systems. However, many of the mothers do not get this health care, and many others feel discriminated against when going to other physicians. Dra. Natalia told us that they are also scared of going to other physicians for fear of them calling the police. For these reasons they come to FIMRC's clinic with their children to get treatment. In addition to this discrimination, many Nicaraguans live in slums surrounding the clinic. Many family members live in crowded shacks with little access to clean, filtered water, creating a great environment for the spread of infections. The area is also quite dirty and dusty leading to a lot of allergies and asthma in kids. Drugs and violence are commonplace in the area of the clinic as well.

Here are some pictures of clinic! The first is a picture of the only snow we will see for 2 months. The second is our exam room, and the third is a photo of chalk drawings of the characters in frozen drawn by a patient. She even taught us how to sing let it go in Spanish!

In the afternoon us 5 have been working with Dra. Natalia on her project. Dra. Natalia came up with a survey that addresses various risk factors and conditions of the clinic's population. We are currently adding up the results and anazlying them. We are hoping to use this information to determine what ailments are plaguing the population, what the risk factors are for these ailments, and how we can respond. Hopefully we can plan some education sessions to address these problems. Our group is pretty diverse with 2 going into family medicine, 2 into pediatrics, and 1 into OBGYN, so with our combined perspectives we ought to come up with a great idea!

This weekend, we went to a national park called Manuel Antonio on the Pacific coast. The beaches were absolutely beautiful, and the forest housed many fun animals like monkeys and slothes. The monkeys were eating their dinner 5 feet away from our own dinner table! We won't crowd this post with all of our pictures, but here is one of all of us taking in the beauty.

We are really looking forward to getting to know our population more and working with the staff to come with long-lasting ideas and how to improve on existing projects. We will also be going to an indigenous island called Isla Chira at the end of the month to provide a week of medical services to this rural population. It will be a great learning experience!

That's all for now from Costa Rica! Pura Vida!

Angie, Jen, Sara, Joyce, Serena

Friday, January 16

Beatrice Tierney Clinic in Uganda

Here is a photo Beatrice Tierney Clinic with Mount Nusu in the background. The clinic is a 30 minute walk from our guesthouse. We have all been enjoying our beautiful commute!

Hello from Uganda!

Mulembe! (Hello!)

Our group has made it safely to Uganda! Thanks to our generous donors, we were able to collect about 300 pounds of supplies to take with us. It turned out to be quite a challenge to get all of our donations to our village in Bududa, but we made it! The FIMRC staff was thrilled by everything we brought from coloring books to ultrasound gel to a microscope for their lab.

We spent the first week getting acquainted with our community and the clinic. Everyone at the clinic has been extremely welcoming and eager to have us jump in on a variety of projects. In our first few days, we have participated in various community outreach activities including treating mosquito nets, conducting household health assessments, and delivering deworming medications to local children. Yesterday, we had the opportunity to assist in a Girls' Empowerment Camp where we taught proper hand washing technique and practiced sewing skills with girls ages 6-17. Afterwards, we conducted a class for the Women's Community Group. During this class, we discussed common misconceptions about menstrual cycles, answered a variety of questions, and taught the women how to make washable/reusable menstrual pads.

We are currently at a guesthouse in Mbale, the largest city near our village. We will be in Mbale for a few hours to check e-mail, update the blog, and contact our families. From here, we are headed to Jinja where we will be whitewater rafting on the Nile! Our regular guesthouse in Bududa does not have Internet access so it may be a while before we can write another post. We look forward to updating you on our adventures in Uganda.

Thank you again to all of our donors and everyone who has supported us in this journey!

Tuesday, January 13

This is how they looked before flying out!

LMU students with CEO, Meredith Mick from FIMRC, 24 hours before taking to the air for their Ugandan and Costa Rican sites!  We are so proud of their efforts and grateful for the donations received that they have taken to the underserved areas.  They landed safely and now are settling into their new environments and meeting the people they will serve!  Well Done!

Wednesday, January 7

Beginning of 2015 International and Local Leadership in Medicine for the Underserved rotations!  Uganda, Costa Rica, Saginaw Flint and Lansing--here we come!