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As mentioned earlier, I hope to provide a little bit of insight into what is involved in preparing for international medical trips. This is the time of year when things usually start moving a little bit faster, so here is an early update.
The undergraduate SOMOS team is in place, and is a younger team than in past years. Usually, about half the team is made up of seniors but this year the team is more heavily weighted toward sophomores and juniors. This seems to be paying off so far: when I met the team last weekend it already seemed close-knit and the members seem to get along very well. More importantly, it appears as though everyone is reading from the same playbook–a very important characteristic when the team will be working together very closely during the time in the Dominican Republic. The structure of the team has also continued maturing: rather than 2 senior student leaders, the work is more broadly distributed and includes leaders for the community- and the clinical-work aspects, students involved in logistics and travel, etc. This makes the trip easier for all of us and begins developing leadership skills in younger team members.
Putting together the medical team has been a little more halting. Each year we have providers on the team we are advised that many (or most) of those who participate plan to return. However, that has not usually been the case. Job obligations, family commitments, and time pressures have precluded return participation for many. As a result, we are still struggling to develop a reliable source of providers for the trip and are forced to find new providers each time. So far, aside from me we have a 4th year medical student from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine (who in the DR will be able to work at a level similar to an intern) and a William and Mary alumna who is interested in documenting the project in photos (and, hopefully, on this blog).
Regarding the logistics, the group is working to finalize the lodging and I am in the process of arranging for medications and supplies. In June we purchased most of our medications in-country, as this simplified travel and purchasing arrangements. Hopefully we’ll be able to do the same this time, but the company we work with will be on holiday when we arrive and so we will need to have everything made ready prior to our arrival. Some medications will still be needed from US sources; I will be contacting MAP International and AmeriCares to see what is available this year.
In the next few weeks there will be another team meeting, at which the medical participants on the project will work to teach the undergraduates clinical skills necessary for the trip. More detail will follow…