A Trip to Nicaragua

Sara Lev is a sophomore student studying global health at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Today, she leaves on a trip to Nicaragua with USC’s chapter of Global Brigades, which has a variety of different development-centric brigades that provide need-based assistance to struggling communities in various countries. USC’s chapter is focused on medical assistance. 


Six hours ago, I finished my biology midterm; in six hours, I will be on my way to LAX to board a flight to Nicaragua. The disarray of my room reflects my current mental state–there are schematics of dozens of different enzymes littered all over the floor, along with clothing, travel-sized liquids, and amongst the mess, stands a human-sized suitcase full of drugs (pharmaceuticals, that is.)

Today, a group of us who are part of USC’s chapter of the Global Medical Brigades (GMB) will be traveling to La Concordia, Nicaragua, to set up a mobile clinic in one of the local schools. The area we are covering is in a rural district and doesn’t have adequate access to health care. We’re providing ourselves–the amateur doctor wannabes–, a stockpile of donated pharmaceuticals, clothing, toys and foreign and local doctors. All of this will result in a mobile clinic where us students will be on a rotation among several different stations.

There’s triage, where we do an intake, asking about a patient’s symptoms and family history (this will make it easier for the doctors to see the patients, since all of the basic information will be in front of them already).  We also get to take blood pressure, which is SUPER exciting for someone who watches too much medical-related dramas (Grey’s Anatomy!) We will do “charla”, which translates to “talk” in Spanish, wherein we teach the young kids of the community about the importance of oral hygiene– we will also be preforming fluoride treatments. The method of teaching during “charla” is through songs and dances. This will probably be effective because what child wouldn’t remember a group of foreigners with terrible Spanish desperately making grand hand gestures?

There’s a data input station, where we use a computer program to compile all of the patient information so that it can be referenced for future use. There’s also a gynecology station, and an ophthalmology station. USC’s chapter of GMB has never been to Nicaragua, so unfortunately, no one really knows exactly what we will be doing until we get there.

Now, it’s 1:30 am and I’m still not packed. It hasn’t hit me that in 24 hours, I’ll be in Central America, learning about the local healthcare, culture, and so many other new experiences. Since it’s been an exhausting week of midterms, I haven’t been thinking much of the exciting journey ahead. Beside me I have a mountainous pile of basic spanish phrases and medical terms– and my biology-logged brain hopes that if I put the stack of papers on my head, the process of learning Spanish will be similar to osmosis. The rational side of my brain knows that this is false; hopefully the plane ride will lend itself to lots of time for memorization.

With that, I am signing off, and will report back with more updates.

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