APRIL 13, 2015 – Niki Khandheria (NHS’17), an international health major, spent spring break volunteering with the Georgetown University Global Medical Brigades (GUMB) in San Diego, Honduras.
During the immersive trip, Khandheria – along with 48 other Georgetown undergraduates and health professionals from Honduras and the United States – helped set up and staff a mobile health clinic for local underserved communities.
“I was attracted to the GUMB program because of its commitment to sustainability, empowerment, and global development,” says the sophomore. “It was enthralling to engage all of the human aspects of myself, mind and body, towards healing those of others.”
Over the course of four clinic days, the brigades provided care to a total of 1,466 patients.
“It was heartwarming and humbling to see the people in the area so invested in their health that they would walk miles to reach our clinic,” says Khandheria.
The student volunteers staffed four stations that included in-take, triage, medication packing, and health education.
“I was fascinated by the way the doctors adapted their practice to their patients’ conditions,” the student says. “Even though each doctor practiced a particular specialty, each was able to employ bare-bones medicine to align with the patients’ needs and the community’s resources.”
Determinants of Health
Helping in the assessment of the patients’ health conditions, the students witnessed high burdens of diabetes, hypertension, joint and muscle pains, and infections in the population. The importance of recognizing the determinants that create conditions for disease was one of Khandheria’s takeaways from the trip.
“I realized almost everything is inextricably tied to health care,” Khandheria says. “The arthritis in a farmer’s joints could not be separated from his years of labor in the fields, and the parasites in a child’s stomach could not be separated from her family’s access to clean water and adequate sanitation.”
She adds: “The social determinants of health that I learned from my international health classes were enlivened in the field during this experience, so much so that I now consider them to be the essence of medicine and the ideal framework within which to care for a patient.”
Passions and Goals
“This experience reaffirmed my international health major, my pre-medical track, and my career goals,” the student says.
This summer, Khandheria will stay with her family in Amarillo, Texas, volunteering at a local clinic that provides care for low-income families.
“I also hope to relax and rejuvenate after a challenging but rewarding second year at Georgetown,” Khandheria says.
By Masha Mikey (S’15)