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Students Learn the Importance of Interdisciplinary Care During Medical Mission Trip to Jamaica

By Jenna Pizzi

group of students

The team of 10 students and four faculty members from University of the Sciences who traveled to Jamaica for a medical mission trip.

A group of 10 students and four faculty members from University of the Sciences traveled to Jamaica this summer where they learned to work side by side with other health care students to care for the underserved people of the island nation.

The medical mission was supported through Women of Health Occupation Promoting Education, an organization originated in 2000 by NOVA Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

This is the second year students and faculty from USciences’ Philadelphia College of Pharmacy have participated.

This year, 135 health care students studying medicine, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy and optometry participated. USciences students said the mission trip shed light on the collaborative nature of working in the field with others from different disciplines in the health care spectrum.

students in jamaica

From left to right: Oluwadamilola Oyenusi, Maura Jones, and Erin Grannan at clinic in a local church

“Thanks to this trip I learned the importance of cultivating working relationships with peers to make each other’s jobs easier and to pick up on any mistakes or missteps the others make,” said Ryan Carney PharmD’17.

“It takes an army to fulfill patient needs and no one clinical experience outweighs the other,” said Kaitlin Emmerson PharmD’17.

Many of the students had never traveled abroad for a medical mission trip before, making it an eye opening and meaningful experience. The faculty members said they were grateful to help out a needy population, but also excited to see students interacting with and caring for their patients who have little or no access to medical care.

“It was very rewarding to see our students using what we have taught them in class and see them apply it to a unique and challenging patient care setting,” said Jennifer Smith PharmD, assistant professor of clinical pharmacy. “Participating in a medical mission trip is a great way to expand your perspective of health care and to see the similarities and differences that exist in the healthcare settings in different countries.”

taylor with patients

From left to right: Taylor Jones, Ryan Carney, Lauren Atkinson, Maura Jones (seated)

For Taylor Jones PharmD’17, the trip was personal.

“My grandmother and brothers and sisters were born in Kingston, so while I have had the chance to visit Jamaica on vacation, taking part in a medial mission trip was my chance to give back to the city,” said Jones. “It is so close to my heart and to my family.”

During the mission, pharmacy students and staff worked with individuals to counsel and educate them on medications and diseases that they may come in contact with. They also collaborated with medical providers, and filled and dispensed prescriptions for children and adults, including geriatric patients.

The group cared for more than 1,000 patients and provided over 1,700 prescriptions to the Jamaicans.

Carney and some members of the group had a chance to treat inmates at the Tower Street Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Kingston.

“It was interesting to talk to the inmates and realized that for the most part they were just like any other patient we saw,” said Carney. “It was empowering to be given the responsibility to care for my patients and to ensure that they were getting the drugs that they needed and that they were safe and effective.”

For all of the students who attended the trip, this was their first clinical rotation working hands-on with patients. Oluwadamilola Oyenusi PharmD’17 said the trip helped her learn to be confident when interacting with patients.

student with patient

Shannon Burke counsels a patient on his medication

“The didactic years prepared us more than enough,” said Oyenusi. “When you use that clinical knowledge and apply it in real life, the boosted confidence will be powerful and an eye-opener.” 

All of the students said they would recommend the mission trip to other students as a way to learn and explore a new culture.

“I think this type of learning is more valuable than any information in a text book,” said Lauren Atkinson PharmD’17.

Faculty members said they hope USciences students will continue to participate in the program and others like it in the coming years.

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