ISU bringing hope and health to the world
January 23, 2020
Physician assistant students make a difference in Dominican Republic
MERIDIAN – A team of Idaho State University physician assistant students and staff are making a difference in the Dominican Republic.
Jared Papa, clinical assistant professor at ISU, and a local dentist discussed partnering together, as well as with the G3 Foundation – an international non-profit organization dedicated to treating dental disease within indigent populations – to make a trip possible.
Papa, other faculty, and six PA students travel to the Dominican Republic each year to provide much needed medical care to patients of all ages, in cooperation with local clinicians, dentists and other medical professionals.
“One of the goals for us and for the G3 Foundation is to give students an opportunity to experience being altruistic in taking care of people, providing for others and hopefully instill that desire to continue to do things, not only in foreign places, but within our own nation,” Papa said.
Over the six years Papa and the team have been traveling to the Dominican Republic, they’ve treated a variety of conditions like infections, reflux and even the common cold. But they don’t just see everyday issues. Christine Hall, clinical assistant professor, said one student was able to identify that a patient had a rare disease that affects one in 50,000 people. Hall said they coordinate any long-term care needs with a patient’s local doctor for issues from hypertension to birth control.
“We’ve found that many of the women who come see us already have some sort of permanent birth control in place, but for those who don’t we like to offer oral contraceptives,” Hall said.
Papa says the trip challenges everyone who attends, as the biggest resource the team has is medication. He says many of the issues they see start out as very treatable, but grow complicated when the patient can’t afford to see a doctor and doesn’t have health insurance.
“Part of our role in things we’re trying to accomplish is to reduce those potential complications, and address things both from a medicinal standpoint but also through an educational standpoint for those communities,” Papa said.
The group sets up in a local school or church, typically a donated space, and hundreds of people turn up for the opportunity to receive dental and medical care. He said students learn quickly that people are desperate for help, and quickly form into a mob trying to get a ticket to be seen.
He said one student got overwhelmed with emotion when a diabetic man in his early 20s said insulin still wouldn’t help him, since he struggles to find food on a daily basis.
“That sometimes can be a difficult realization, that you have in your heart and your mind the desire to help, but the means that are needed are not in existence for what you can do,” Papa said.
Hall said the students learn a lot while in the field, including the importance of service.
“One of the most important elements of his trip is igniting a fire for service,” Hall said. “Certainly, I think the students who ask to come already have that within them, but we see over the course of a week experiences that really change them, that really impact them emotionally, and we find that our students want to return to serve again.”
The group does some fundraising for the trip, but everyone mostly pays their own way. Papa said they would certainly welcome any donations that would help them pay for the supplies they bring to these foreign countries that so desperately need help.
“We have the privilege of making an impact on an individual’s life,” Papa said. “In many cases, the individuals we impact would continue to struggle and suffer with whatever ailment they happen to be experiencing, but we are able to come in and make that difference and change a person’s life.”
Papa and his group will be heading to their next mission Feb. 7-17.