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July 17, 2013 - USA College of Medicine Students Provide Medical Relief for Amazon Villagers
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A group of USA College of Medicine students recently returned from a medical mission trip to Peru. While there, the group traveled by boat, stopping to provide clinical care to eight villages along the Amazon River.

 

USA medical student Olivia Butters (in red) and USA medical student Timothy Parker (in gray) wash the locals' feet.

A group of University of South Alabama College of Medicine students recently returned from a medical mission trip along the Amazon River in Peru. The team, part of the Christian Medical Ministry of South Alabama (CMMSA), was able to provide medical and dental relief to almost 1,000 villagers over five days.

From June 10-14, the team partnered with Amazon Medical Missions (AMM) and traveled by boat on the Tahuayo River, a branch of the Amazon River, stopping to provide “clinical care” to eight different villages, most of whom have little or no access to health care.

“I have been on mission trips before, but this was my first medical mission trip,” said USA medical student Olivia Butters. “At each village, we set up a clinic, either under a tent or in a building in the pueblos along the river, and provided medical care, eye glasses, dental care, prayer, Bibles, gifts, shoes and a family photo.”

Butters, a second-year USA medical student, said that while the whole trip was life changing, her favorite experience was the simple act of washing the locals’ feet. “It was a growing opportunity for me to humble myself and be a servant to the beautiful people there,” she explained. “Even when we had difficulty communicating verbally, the villagers were able to understand our purpose through our actions.”

The team of 27, led by Duane Baxter, director of CMMSA, included community physicians, USA Medical Center Pharmacist Megan Smith, first and second-year medical students, pharmacy students and spouses.

The physicians and students worked in the villages alongside the AMM staff and two Peruvian doctors. Will Cutchen, a second-year USA medical student, said that the doctors and medical staff were not only helpful, but they also allowed the students to gain hands-on experience.

“Our stops at the villages essentially ran like medical clinics, complete with an admitting table and different medical stations,” said Cutchen. “The experience was invaluable. Our team was able to treat entire families at once.”

In addition to treating villagers, the team took time to explore Lima, the capital and largest city in Peru, and tour the Amazon Jungle. According to USA medical student Zack Moore, the team saw a variety of exotic animal life such as pink river dolphins, piranhas, fresh water rays and monkeys.

Moore says that this life-changing experience was one he would recommend to any medical student. “Our team helped meet people’s medical and spiritual needs, but we got back just as much in return. We were able to treat diseases and injuries that we will probably never see in the United States,” explained Moore. “Practicing my interviewing skills for six to eight hours a day for five days was an experience that will definitely carry over into my clinical years.”

To learn more about the Christian Medical Ministry of South Alabama, visit http://www.cmmsa.org.

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