School of Pharmacy sends Medical Mission Team to Mataas na Kahoy, Philippines
LLUSP forms important professional relationships in the Philippines.
By Stephen Vodhanel, PhD with Elvin Hernandez, DrPH, MPH, MCHES
In its young history, Loma Linda University School of Pharmacy has established a strong track record of developing, supporting, and initiating medical mission trips around the world. With strategic intentionality, LLUSP has been able to provide and support over 125 student pharmacists, faculty, and staff with international service opportunities in eighteen countries. During December 2013, a team of LLUSP faculty and PY3 students, organized by Associate Professor Dr. Elvin Hernandez, added the country of the Philippines to the long list of nations where the School of Pharmacy extends its mission service.
The LLUSP Philippines mission team consisted of two clinical faculty from the Department of Pharmacy Practice, and several students. Assistant Professor Dr. Phipson Wu, and Professor Dr. Javad Tafreshi precepted the students, which included PY3 pharmacy students Joel Christian, Khanh Vuong, and Alyssa Zima. Dr. Tafreshi's son, Ali, also accompanied the team. The LLUSP Philippines mission team provided a health fair to hundreds of Philippine residents while collaborating and working alongside the Mataas na Kahoy Municipal Health Officer, Dr. Karla Karaan.
According to Dr. Hernandez, the LLUSP Philippines medical mission goal was to “improve the quality of life of the local population through compassionate health care and health education. Our team sought to provide internal medicine, ambulatory, and pharmaceutical care to the local population through collaboration with local medical practitioners, stakeholders, and government officials.”
The LLUSP Philippines medical mission team targeted ten barangays, or small provincial population centers composed mainly of rural, agricultural laborers in Mataas na Kahoy, approximately 56 miles south of the capital city of Manila. The team was embedded in the community to experience first-hand the culture, the daily living conditions, and the medical needs of the community.
LLUSP students fostered important professional relationships with the Philippines doctors and staff, as well as gain valuable field experience with their faculty preceptors. Dr. Hernandez’s prior relationships with local physicians and medical staff at the Mataas na Kahoy Municipal Health Clinic allowed for the coordination of a health fair for the local community. The LLUSP pharmacy services resulted in 422 patients examined and over 750 prescriptions dispensed during the mission. “Throughout this trip, I was able to develop friendships with my classmates and also the professors who went on the trip with us. We learned how to work together as a team, sometimes not as just professors and students, but fellow teammates whose ultimate goal is to improve the patients' health,” said PY3 student Khanh Vuong.
Before the trip to the Philippines, LLUSP students participated in specialized training that included organizing donated medicines from the LLU Medical Center, medication order review, medication counseling, dispensing practices, and cultural competency training. “LLUSP students learned of local customs and medical practices so that they can responsibly dispense and counsel on medications, as they are trained to do so in their profession. Our team members were in constant contact with the local physicians during the health fair to ensure appropriate medications were provided and that patients received adequate counseling on using their medications,” added Dr. Hernandez.
From this working experience, LLUSP students practiced their clinical skills they learned in the classroom, as well as participate in the University’s mission. “It allowed me to live our LLU's motto, ‘To make man whole’ in a very tangible way. Being part of this mission trip allowed me to really experience the university mission by being surrounded by faculty and students with similar mindsets and patients with very visible needs,” said PY3 student Alyssa Zima.
Being adaptive and providing responsible pharmacy health care were major lessons LLUSP students took away from their experience working in the Philippines. Also, faced with a large impoverished population with various medical conditions, LLUSP students were able to reflect on the disparity in the availability of basic medical resources between developed and developing countries. “The opportunity to directly treat and provide medications to children and elderly who would wait for close to an hour for their medications showed me how I can use the knowledge I have been given to help others,” said PY3 student Joel Christian.
And perhaps more importantly, as a result of study here at Loma Linda University, choosing a life of service within the pharmacy profession has become a personal goal for PY3 student Joel Christian. “Attending Loma Linda University has allowed me to visualize the reason I wanted to become a pharmacist and has helped me reach out to others. I believe the trip to the Philippines has molded me into the pharmacist I would like to become. One who keeps patients needs at the very center of each visit and one that will in the future lead mission trips of my own,” said Joel.
Photo left to right: Elvin Hernandez, DrPh; Phipson Wu, PharmD; PY3 Joel Christian; PY3 Khanh Vuong; PY3 Alyssa Zima; Ali Tafreshi; Javad Tafreshi, PharmD