This story was originally published in the summer 2013 newsletter of the Association of Physician Assistants in Cardiovascular Surgery.
Earlier this year, Michael Nowak, MPAS, PA-C, FAPACVS, a PA in cardiac surgery and hospitalist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., coordinated a medical mission to Guatemala with a physician and PA in emergency medicine from Pennsylvania and 11 PA students from the Seton Hill University PA program. During their visit, they treated approximately 1,300 patients.
Members of the team had to bring all of their medical supplies into the country with them. They brought nearly a thousand pounds of supplies, including medical instruments, diagnostic equipment and medications.
Their host was an American family in Jalapa, a village approximately two hours east of Guatemala City. David and Julie Sutton and their family moved to the village approximately 10 years ago. They are involved in various forms of ministry and routinely host medical missions, as many local residents have no access to even rudimentary healthcare.
From Jalapa, the team visited numerous rural villages, including some where the villagers had never seen a Caucasian.
Michael personally raised the money to purchase medications used on the mission. To save on shipping costs, each member of the team carried suitcases with medical supplies.
Michael notes that the trip was very inexpensive—only about $500 per person for the week (including transportation, sleep quarters, three square meals a day and translators) plus each traveler’s airfare. He was also able to raise some additional funds that helped pay for some of the students’ costs.
When asked if he would do it again, Michael said yes:
“Personally, I loved it, and will be coordinating a weeklong trip each year back to the same place. My goal is to take about 10 PAs and/or PA students. I will be taking a team of 10 the week of Nov. 3 this year, and am already signing people up for next year.
“The personal rewards are incredible. Most of these people have never received any medical care and have never even had a Tylenol or a vitamin. The most common health problems included intestinal worm infections, fungal skin infections, musculoskeletal complaints, infections and complaints similar to what you would see here [in the U.S.] in a primary care office. We also brought a lot of vitamins, toothbrushes, toothpaste, crayons for the kids, and yes—even some chocolate for the kids.”
Anyone interested in participating in a PA medical mission trip to Guatemala is invited to contact Michael directly.
See also: When a Little Is Enough