Bhupaul Ramsuchit, a second-year medical student at Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, chose to spend part of his summer break a little differently – by helping to provide free health care to an underserved community in Guatemala.
“I’ve always wanted to go on a medical mission trip and that’s part of the reason I came to FIU,” Ramsuchit said. “It’s very hands-on and I love working in the community. I love learning about different cultures and different people, and so what better way to do that than to go on a medical mission trip?”
Ramsuchit was part of a team of 115 volunteers – physicians, nurses, dentists, surgeons and students, including several pre-med students from FIU. During their five-day trip they were able to see more than 1,500 patients.
“What we saw that was needed the most was just basic medical care,” Ramsuchit said. “There were a lot of people with infections or inflammation so they needed medication. We had tons of medications flown in with us. And, we gave away over 800 pairs of glasses. A lot of these people were so nearsighted that it was like a whole new world to them when we gave them a pair of glasses.”
Folks in the surrounding community heard about the medical team through word of mouth and were bussed in to receive care at the Missioneros del Camino Orphanage in Sumpango, Guatemala where they set up camp.
“Mainly, we saw patients but we also tried to make the orphanage more self-sustainable,” Ramsuchit said. “They had a water well that hadn’t been working for some time so we were able to get that working. They had chicken coups that needed to be rebuilt completely. We did those little things that we sometimes take for granted, and are very important to them.”
The June journey to Central America, the budding doctor’s first medical mission trip, proved especially challenging because of the language barrier – he doesn’t speak Spanish. In the end, however, listening proved more important than speaking.
“I realized that it doesn’t matter what language you speak because the patients there all they want is someone to listen to them. As long as you’re there and you have a hand on their shoulder, they feel like they’re being heard, and that’s what they really want.”
But Ramsuchit and his fellow team members did more than listen, they made a difference, they probably saved a woman’s life.
“On the second day, we had a patient that came in really sick,” Ramsuchit said. “She was barely standing. It was horrible. We just knew there was something really, really wrong. It turned out she had systemic inflammation, and we gave her IVs and sent her to the hospital.
“She said she had been that way for months and no one had seen her. No one in her family really knew what to do. I felt like if we were never there, she would have gone without that care. She could have ultimately died had we not seen her and taken the necessary actions. That one encounter made the whole trip worth it.”