Many residents are interested in rotations abroad. Washington Health System Family Medicine has been able to establish relationships with three organizations that regularly organize trips to Haiti, Honduras and Ocote Paulina.
The work is hard and the accommodations less than luxurious, but all who participate are humbled by the experience.
If interested, please consider one of the brigade trips described below:
- Shoulder to Shoulder (Hombre a Hombre)
In 1996, Hurricane Mitch devastated much of Central America, but no country was affected more than struggling Honduras. In a few short days of heavy rains and winds, the country lost over 70% of its crops and 80% of its roads, reducing the infrastructure to that of 50 years prior. Problems such as poor water quality and lack of proper food and medicine led to immediate problems of disease and death, and long-term malnutrition, growth stunting, birth defects, and a weakened work force. Shoulder to Shoulder, a group started by a partnership between physicians at the University of Cincinnati and the local Honduran health councils, quickly stepped forward and initiated the slow process of regrowth. They now have over 11 sites in Honduras and neighboring countries.
Using the community oriented approach and under the sponsorship of the Shoulder-to-Shoulder organization, two local universities, the University of Pittsburgh and West Virginia University, have ‘adopted’ communities in Honduras. Both groups are enthusiastically accepting resident and attending physicians from WHFP.
- San Jose /UPMC
San Jose del Negrito is a beautiful small community nestled in the mountain region of the Yoro province, about 3 hours by road from Honduras’ second largest city, San Pedro Sula. Since 2001. Doctors from UPMC have been working to create a self-sustaining health clinic in this impoverished community. While it has an abundance of water, San Jose lacks electricity due to its remote location. Twice a year, over 25 students, 10 medical residents, pharmacy residents, nurses, and attendings descend on this community for a two-week medical brigade. Nine years ago, participants slept in community houses. Last year, a large compound was completed. This includes a beautiful solar-powered tile-floored clinic, a dentistry section, an ob/gene room, a dining room, and a generator-powered large sleeping building. Within the last year a full time physician was hired to staff the clinic, giving the community its first regular medical care.
Brigades are two weeks (usually April and October)
At the beginning of the brigade, participants are divided into 3-4 groups consisting of an attending, students, a pharmacist, and residents.
Duties vary from morning to afternoon, and include: field trips to schools for WCCs, home visits, clinic time, pharmacy work, community projects (these include obtain demographics and working on a water filter promotion project or chimney installation project), or TIME OFF!
Saturday and Sundays are off, and often the group takes an end-of-brigade trip to a Honduras tourist site (the cruise site beach destination of Roatan or the extensive Mayan ruins at Copan, for example)
Internet access is available.
Cell phone service is available (provider dependent) if you want to take a 15-minute walk up a large hill leading out of town.
Sleeping quarters are on primitive bunk beds with sleeping mats.
Cold showers and flushing toilets.
Approximate cost is $1400 (varies wildly depending on airfare and end of brigade trip)
- Ocote Paulino / WVU
Ocote Paulino is a slightly more progressive town located about 9 miles from San Jose as the crow flies. In contrast to San Jose, Ocote has electricity, modernizing its residents. However, water is much more scare and polluted, leading to the same problems with disease and malnutrition that are seen throughout the rest of the country. West Virginia University began its partnership with the health council of Ocote Paulino within the last 5 years. The only access to medical care for the townspeople, aside from a part-time community health nurse, is an hour drive or a half day walk to the nearest large town of Morazán. Led by infectious disease specialist Dr. Melanie Fisher, a small brigade of between 10 and 15 volunteer medical professionals arrive in this town of about 1500 for one week, twice a year. Supplies are limited and are brought down by the team. Because the team is much smaller, it quickly becomes a family. Because there is no ‘compound’, its members sleep in homes scattered across the town. There is more freedom to visit and explore the town and surrounding wondrous hillsides.
Brigades are 1 week (usually April and October)
Duties currently include clinic and pharmacy work from about 8:30 to 5pm, with the occasional home visit half day and road trip to a school for well child checks.
Cold showers and flush toilets.
Cell phone service is available, provider dependent.
Sleeping is on floors or beds.
Currently the only internet access is via cell phone.
Cost is approximately $1400 and airfare dependent.
- Haiti / Brother to Brother
Each Jan/Feb, a group of local physicians affiliated with Washington Health System travel for a weeklong medical brigade to rural, impoverished Haiti.
Opportunities exist for residents to develop their own international rotations. Also, the global health program at WVU has developed multiple international rotations that are available to our residents as well.