Although he’s just now going into 11th grade at Palmer Trinity, Michael Eschmann is in charge of a non-profit organization called the Haiti Medical Partnership Program (HMPP). He has been in charge since August 2013, when he was in the ninth grade.
“We bring a team of medical students to a rural area and we bring a village medical supplies,” Eschmann says. “We give them preventive education care and the opportunity to meet individually with the medical students so they can have one-on-one relationships.”
Eschmann adds that they partner with Florida International University students for the program.
“I was one of the founding participants to go on the Haiti trip (a Palmer mission trip),” he says. “I fell in love with the town and the people and Haiti in general.”
Eschmann came home and considered what he could do to help the people of the Haitian village. He decided he didn’t just want to have a fundraiser, rather something that would have an impact. He assessed the needs of the community and settled on helping the villagers get medical care. One of the criteria was that the program be different than the Palmer mission trip.
“The Palmer trip was to create more buildings at the school,” he says. “My goal is to create a medical clinic room, almost like a nurse’s clinic. Perhaps a medical student or doctor could come in once a month.”
To further their goal, they looked to Palmer alumni to help.
“The medical student alumni we saw were going to FIU,” Eschmann says. “We contacted them and partnered up with them; not so much with FIU, but the medical student body.”
The medical students went to Haiti during their spring break in April.
“We had two medical students and a staff of seven,” Eschmann says.
The medical students were finishing their third year of medical school. Eschmann says they would like to bring different students every year. Eschmann says they are looking to partner as well with the Doctors Without Borders organization.
Palmer faculty went along to help, as well has Eschmann’s father, who was the photographer for the program.
“We had help from faculty for the pharmacy,” he says. “We distributed the proper over-the-counter medication needed by the villagers.”
Most of the money to back the program came from the student’s “crowdfunding” efforts. However, they did get a generous donation from South Dade Toyota.
“It was a great trip for me, it expressed my passion,” Eschmann says. “Not only for Haiti, but for my professional career, I’d like to be a cardiologist.”
In addition to organizing the trip to Haiti and learning about giving aid in primitive conditions, Eschmann volunteers at Jack Nicklaus Miami Children’s Hospital three hours a week. He works in the emergency room Child Life Specialty Care where he gives comfort to children who are waiting.
“We read to them and play board games with them,” he says.
His interest in medicine stems from a bout with Kawasaki disease at age three, which kept him in the hospital for some time.
“I was so in awe of the doctor that I wanted to become a doctor to help,” he says.
At school, Eschmann plays violin and is a member of the Tri-M Honor Society. He was the tenth grade president of the Student Government Association. His grade raised the most money last year.
“At the SGA, we like to come together and do a lot of community service work,” he says.
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld