Physician Assistant Students Provide Healthcare in Nicaragua

By Purnell T. Cropper | April 28, 2014

In March, 41 eager Arcadia University physician assistant students from both the Glenside and Christiana campuses arrived at the Philadelphia airport to depart for Managua, Nicaragua. Through the Global Brigades Organization, students would participate in a medical mission trip in conjunction with Penn State Hershey College of Medicine. Planning for the trip began last fall, led by Arcadia University Assistant Professor Michael Huber.

In addition to 41 graduate students, the brigade brought an interdisciplinary team of four faculty members, six physicians, two medical residents, seven medical students, four nursing students, and a dentist, for a total of 65 participants, the largest medical brigade in Global Brigade history. Through extensive fundraising efforts, students raised more than $74,000 in funds and more than $4,000 in medical supplies. The money and supplies were used to treat 1,277 men, women and children, surpassing the goal of 800 patients.

Each day, the brigade traveled to the community of Mancotal, Jinotega, Nicaragua and provided a free medical clinic for the Nicaraguan people. Services provided included triage, consultation, gynecology, dentistry and pharmacy. With the donated medical supplies and medications, students, faculty, and physicians were able to treat common medical conditions such as respiratory infections, high blood pressure, diabetes, as well as infectious diseases and conditions specific to Nicaragua. They also provided dental hygiene and hand-washing education to children, teaching proper technique through interactive play. The team also helped to develop electronic medical records, which will allow the Global Brigades organization and future teams to continue treatment and track community health trends.

The hands-on experience gained in the clinic allowed first-year physician assistant students to gain a whole new understanding of clinical experience. “This experience was unlike any other. It made me not only realize I was following my passion to help those in need but gave me a new sense of what it means to be a Physician Assistant,” said Cassandra Corby, PA-S, Christiana Campus.

While in Nicaragua, students experienced complete cultural immersion. Students found an extremely humble and loving people awaiting them. “When we pulled into the brightly colored school that would be our clinic for the next four days, there was a line of at least 50 patients waiting at the door for our arrival. My eyes welled up at the line of people who were so grateful and eager to receive healthcare, many for the very first time,” said Lynn Beatty, PA-S, Glenside Campus.

The experiences students had in Nicaragua were life changing. Physician assistant students from last year started the first medical brigade from Arcadia when 19 students traveled to Panama. This year’s students were grateful to be a part of this legacy of service and hope that the traditions of giving back and serving others will continue on.

Renee Cumens, PA-S, Christiana Campus, summed up the experience this way: “When we first arrived, the people of Managua, Nicaragua, kindly greeted us and said that we were angels sent to them. After only a few days of caring for them and seeing their smiles, I can say that they are far more angelic than I am…. They may be poor financially but they are among the richest in heart, appreciation, and gratitude. I would not trade this experience for anything else in the world!”