Med organization plans mission trip


Published: Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 9:07 p.m.

While most students will spend their Spring Break along a beach, 35 volunteers will be hosting clinics in the Dominican Republic.

Members of the non-profit organization DR HELP are traveling to Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic with hopes of providing vaccinations and health information for five to six villages in poverty.

DR HELP is a professional medical outreach program trip organized by the College of Medicine's second-year medical students from the University of Florida.

Today marks DR HELP's first fundraiser of the year with a benefit dinner at Green Plantations Restaurant from 5 to 10 p.m. Tickets for a platter, drink and dessert are $10 and can be purchased at the door.

The opening fundraiser marks the beginning actions toward the group's ongoing goal to gain financial support to purchase medical supplies, equipment and medications, said Denise Tai, a 2008 trip leader.

DR HELP is one of five different medical trips that are completed through the Health Outreach Assembly and include other medical disciplines for a more comprehensive performance, she said.

The group is comprised of UF physicians, nurses, and select medical, pharmacy and nursing students, Tai said.

"In a sense, the trip is dissatisfying," Tai said. "The time you have there is so limited, and while the experience is wonderful, you leave wishing to further sustain the area you are leaving with the availability of ideal health care."

Once the volunteers arrive in the village, they set up shop with the resources available in the area, she said.

"You learn to be very flexible," Tai said.

The team's daily schedule is broken up into three portions, she said.

The day begins in a triage, which essentially serves as a typical emergency room, Tai said. Volunteers check a patient's vital signs and from there, determine what individuals need the most care.

The next segment is a focused public health service, where volunteers distribute papers and information regarding proper sanitation and personal hygiene to village residents, Tai said.

"This element is one of the most important because it allows us to provide individuals with health care that will last long after we leave," she said.

Lastly, a pharmacy becomes available to the village where DR HELP provides visitors with the surplus of medications and supplies brought to the country.

"What was so amazing to me was how desperate and grateful the people of the Dominican Republic were for any medical attention they received," Tai said.

It was equally impressive how efficiently her peers worked with such few resources, she said.

DR HELP has until March 7 to raise $15,000, and still has more than halfway to go, Tai said.

Donations can be made at www.drhelp.org through a PayPal option. Checks can also be sent to the organization, she said.

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