Mission to Heal is an organization that takes medical missions all over the world. Founded by Dr. Glenn Geelhoed, these medical service trips give medical students the opportunity to travel and learn with Dr. Geelhoed while providing medical services and training at no cost in many international communities. Two months ago, Dr. Geelhoed traveled to Malawi on one of these medical mission trips. Two medical students, Kelsey and Nate, also traveled with Dr. Geelhoed and were excited to be able to learn from and serve with him.
Kelsey and Nate got involved with Dr. Geelhoed and his organization through the pre-med club at Calvin College in Michigan. While in Africa, they had the opportunity to observe and practice medicine in operating rooms, performing C-sections and other surgical procedures. While in Malawi, their team was able to work in two district hospitals, one of which was WAM’s partner hospital in Kabudula. Kelsey mentioned, “We worked with the medical team there and tried to help where we could without invading, learn from them and Dr. G, and then teach the locals what we were learning about.” Kelsey would like to be a family practice doctor, and she says this trip was a huge affirmation that that is the right direction for her. An especially exciting moment for Kelsey was helping with deliveries. Nate is also attending medical school, and has yet to decide on a specialty. However, Nate says, “[T]his trip directly related to that decision and opened my eyes to a different approach to medicine, in addition to giving me significant experience dealing with patients.”
While this trip was very rewarding and a great learning experience, there were challenging moments as well. Seeing babies and children suffer and sometimes die was hard for the students. “There are just a lot fewer resources there, so infants born premature or with other complications often don’t even have a chance of living,” Kelsey stated. It was also challenging to understand the culture’s more laid-back approach to medicine when patients needed to be seen. At the same time, Kelsey was impressed by the efficiency of a prenatal care/HIV clinic she visited, which cleared a church full of people in under an hour, and was also impressed by how well the hospitals were run. While it was true that many people would walk many miles to a hospital, there were health care resources available. Nate mentioned, “What surprised me was the passion that many of the healthcare workers had there.” He was struck again and again by the realization of how fortunate we are in the States to have such quality health care professionals and equipment; this realization came especially from doing various operations with adequate but makeshift equipment. When asked what his most rewarding experience was, he mentioned being able to suture a woman’s hand and participating in blood testing children for malaria. “I was making a big contribution…I loved the opportunity to actually do many things.”