Last December, 31 students from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University, Wilbur Wright College, and one medical student from New York’s Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine formed UIC’s Global Brigade and traveled to Nicaragua to provide medical and dental aid to more than 600 patients in the village of Sacacli.
Children in Sacacli suffer from a range of ailments, most commonly respiratory infections, diarrhea, and parasite-related infections, whereas adults also experience diabetes and hypertension. Along with various health concerns, teenagers also receive little to no sexual education, which leads to many early pregnancies. Our goal was to provide patients with services from Nicaraguan physicians, dentists, a gynecologist, and a pharmacist, while also learning about the healthcare system in a clinical setting. After patients provided basic information, students were able to take each patient’s vitals and offer them information about healthy eating, proper oral health care, and the importance of drinking safe water to prevent many local diseases. The Global Brigades program is working on implementing water systems in the villages to help prevent the spread of communicable diseases. Children were given fluoride treatments to help strengthen their teeth and prevent decay. We passed out toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, healthy snacks, and stickers for the kids.
Patients were then taken into the clinic to see the physicians regarding their medical concerns. Women were given the option to be seen by a gynecologist, and patients were also able to undergo a routine dental cleaning or tooth extraction. Prescriptions were also available for necessary antibiotics, topical creams, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, etc. All patients (adults and children) were given vitamins, as malnourishment was a big concern seen in many of the patients.
Two additional days were devoted to the public health portion of our trip, during which we helped build septic tanks, showers, toilets, small laundry/wash areas, and concrete floors for two families in the village of El Naranjo. This work is especially important because it helps combat and prevent many of the medical conditions we witnessed during our three-day medical portion.
We were even given a cement plaque on which we were able to sign our names. One of the Nicaraguan boys, Brayan, who was helping us with the mixing of the concrete even signed his name and wrote a small message:
“We all smile in the same language.”
We’d like to thank Henry Schein Cares Foundation for their generous donation and for helping us give to Nicaraguan communities in need. Our group truly appreciated this, but even more so our patients appreciated the amazing donations, and the clinic staff was thankful for the extra supplies that will come in good use for future patient visits. And finally, THANK YOU to the communities of Sacacli and El Naranjo for allowing us, students, to provide care to your people and the opportunity to better our education. Thank you to the Global Brigades staff and doctors for all their help.