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On a Mission with the School of Pharmacy

October 8, 2018

Students and faculty in the Wegmans School of Pharmacy recently traveled to Mexico, Tanzania, South Africa, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Montana's Blackfeet Reservation to engage in medical missions or service trips. College News Highlights caught up with four students to hear how they used their pharmacy skills to work in health care clinics and provide care to patients in their homes while abroad.

Students and faculty from St. John Fisher College traveled to Mexico to engage in service work.

Elizabeth Ellison ’21

Elizabeth Ellison spent a week in Tehuacan, Mexico, travelling with a group of pharmacy, nursing, and biology students. While there, she was part of a team that made house calls for sick patients and held a health fair, offering blood pressure and sugar level screenings for village residents.

As a budding pharmacist, she said the trip gave her the opportunity to apply clinical knowledge learned in the classroom in an experiential way.

“The lessons I’ve learned in Mexico will inform my future career and classwork with an element of service woven into it,” she said. “Learning to interact with people who have different life experiences than mine is a skill transferable to my classmates and to my professional life.”

Her advice for students considering a service trip or medical mission?

“Enter in without many expectations, be willing to learn with an open mind, and be reflective,” she said.

Jaylan Yuksel takes a man's blood pressure while on a medical mission to South Africa.

Jaylan Yuksel ’21
South Africa

After traveling to Peru to volunteer in an orphanage, Jaylan Yuksel knew she wanted to engage in a second trip offering opportunities to provide medical service.

A second-year pharmacy student, Yuksel traveled to South Africa with fellow students for a two week medical mission working in a local Sipho Zungo clinic. While there, they took vitals such as blood pressure, weight, temperature, height, and blood glucose level. The medical team also made home visits to patients in the Zulu community who were too ill to make it to the clinic.

“We cleaned wounds and gave out vitamins, porridge, and paracetamol—the South African equivalent to acetaminophen—to patients who needed it. We also helped clean up around patients’ homes and went to the common water faucet to bring water to people,” she explained. “This was my favorite part of the trip. I was able to learn a lot about the Zulu culture and meet so many kind souls while at the same time providing medical assistance to those in need.”

Upon graduation, Yuksel hopes to secure a residency in a neurology or psychiatric pharmacy. And, she plans to return to South Africa to volunteer again.

“Being abroad reconfirmed why I chose my career path: to be able to help those in need,” Yuksel said. “I plan on continuing to go on medical mission trips and help out as much as I can. I love learning about different cultures and meeting new people.”

Third-year pharmacy student and future community pharmacist Emily Haniford traveled to Tanzania.

Emily Haniford ’20

Third-year pharmacy student and future community pharmacist Emily Haniford traveled to Tanzania and said the experience helped deepen her understanding of how culture can impact one’s view on medical treatment.

“I learned about the many different home remedies the local people use for different illnesses,” she said. “This is interesting because they are using what is available to them from the land, as they don’t always have access to western medicine.”

With the opening of a brand new health clinic in the area she visited, Haniford had the opportunity to present a workshop on medications available through the center, discussing the best ways to take those medicines and common side effects of the medication. She also participated in home visits to mothers with young children.

“I answered any questions the mothers had about their health or their children’s health, and encouraged healthy living practices including washing their hands and boiling water before drinking,” she said.

Haniford said the experience in Tanzania will inform her work as a student and pharmacist.

“It will help me be more understanding when explaining medications and common misconceptions about them to patients,” she explained.

Nicole Weigert (center) participated in a medical mission trip to Guatemala, and returned a year later to complete her APPE rotation.

Nicole Weigert ’19

In 2017, Nicole Weigert participated in a medical mission trip to Guatemala and developed a deep love for the country and its people. So, with the help of several faculty members, she planned a return trip to complete her fourth-year APPE rotation.

While there, she took part in several medical clinics, filling medication prescriptions and counseling patients at the pharmacy. She also served food at a feeding center and gave interactive demonstrations of healthy hygiene habits to children.

“While I was able to teach patients about their medications, each patient taught me something about their culture and values,” she said. “Learning about the patient population you serve allows you to tailor treatment to their individual wants and needs. This is not only applicable when in foreign countries, but in everyday practice in the United States.”

With two international medical missions under her belt, it’s no surprise that she’s a passionate advocate for service trips.

“If you have the opportunity to participate in a medical mission trip, don’t pass it up,” she said. “It will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.”