This post is written by guest writer and MEPN student, Jessica Erickson
This past weekend, twelve MEPN students escaped the stress of their summer semester and jumped at the opportunity to teach at an educational health fair in La Morita, Tijuana. As most trips abroad tend to unfold, things did not go according to plan. An important funeral in the community used the intended space for the health fair at the San Eugenio Clinic site. Thankfully, the students displayed patience, adaptability and creativity, and set up the stations in classrooms below. However, because the health fair was now out of sight, a creative spark was needed once again. The most competent Spanish speakers invited members of the community to our health fair from the nearby farmers market and fair grounds. Soon, by word of mouth from around the neighborhood, our health fair blossomed with families.
Stations ranged from Hand hygiene, Diabetes, Hypertension, Hands only CPR and Nutrition education. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, friends and more joined in on the fun. Although the students were first intimidated to teach in Spanish, their compassion for healthcare and people shined through. Laughter, smiles and friendly conversation danced around the room. Blood glucose and blood pressure are always the most desirable stations, but hand hygiene, CPR and nutrition attracted just as many bodies with their positive energy and passion to teach. A highlight of the day was making bracelets, drawing pictures and playing cornhole with the kids of family members present.
One of the main goals of these trips is to establish community and build long term cross cultural relationships with our partners in La Morita. On a previous immersion trip, leaders Jessica Erickson and Kelly Huerta cultivated a friendship with Mexican medical student, Karla Gonzalez (featured above), and Karla returned for this most recent health fair. She not only assisted with educational conversation during the fair, but also shared her experience of what it is like to be a medical student in Mexico. Karla touched on the fact that, “we may be from different backgrounds, but we share a common ground of care for others as future healthcare workers, and that connects us as people. There should be no borders that separate us from helping one another.” After the health fair, the students toured San Eugenio Clinic, and were walked through the process of patient intake, assessment, diagnosis, treatment, prevention and discharge by the medical professionals working there. This clinic is unique in the treatment of interdisciplinary, collaborative care with medical, pharmaceutical, dental, psychological and spiritual services offered. It was a good reminder of the importance of holistic healing for patients.
The day ended at a taco stand where the students shared guacamole and reflected on their experiences. Debriefing the highs and lows of the day is important for the students to process their personal experience, and also helps to identify what could be improved for the next trip. We discussed the needs of the La Morita community to be further addressed, and how to continue to demonstrate our desire to serve with and learn from the welcoming community of La Morita, Tijuana. Eyes were opened, hearts were filled, knowledge was shared, friendships were strengthened and churros were eaten.