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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Global Medical Brigades gives health care to communities in need

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UCity GMB volunteers with GMB staff in Chirijuyu, Guatemala. PHOTO COURTESY OF ATHIRA BABU ’24

Since 2017, the Global Medical Brigades (GMB) chapter at the University City campus has been dedicated to bringing health products and awareness to communities who do not have access to sufficient health care.

Each year, volunteers raise money to fund a week-long trip to another country, where they hold health care clinics, provide families with hygiene products and educate communities on how they can better take care of their physical health.

“Our mission is to inspire, mobilize and collaborate with communities to achieve their own health and economic goals,” said Shriya Patel ’25, event coordinator for the organization’s UCity chapter. “Our vision for this is to supply millions of empowered community members with the resources and capacity to thrive.”

In May 2022, UCity’s GMB volunteers visited the community Chirijuyu in Guatemala, where they were able to provide 148 medical consultations, 118 vision screenings, 16 pap smears and 15 health education workshops, according to Patel.

In summer 2023, the group will be going to Honduras and have already begun raising money to fund the trip. They hope to hold one fundraiser every month for the rest of the school year to fund the trips, and their next event will be a Halloween-themed fundraiser during October.

One of the major workshops held by GMB during their trips is a three day health clinic. According to Sydney Tufankjian ’23, vice president of the UCity chapter, they first take some time to prepare themselves for the clinic by engaging with the daily lives and customs of the people who make up the community before the clinic begins.

Tufankjian said the clinic consists of a variety of different stations, which can include a hygiene education station called “charla,” an intake station where patients can plan out the next steps if they are diagnosed with something, a pharmacy station that provides medication and a dental clinic that provides dental care.

All medications are provided to the community at discounted costs, according to Athira Babu ’24, president of the UCity chapter. Other supplies, such as toothbrushes, are gathered throughout the year in collection boxes and given out to the communities for free.

These clinics are very important, because for many of the communities visited by GMB, medical care is insufficient or inaccessible, and people cannot get all the help they need.

“Something that I found really heartbreaking is that to get to a help center from their home, it’s a lot longer,” said Jathin Desan ’24, treasurer for the UCity chapter. “Not everyone has a car or a bus like we do here in Philadelphia. They have to physically walk to get to the help center.”

Tufankjian described an experience she had in Guatemala with a woman impacted by this lack of access who came to the clinic with a severe headache due to extremely high blood pressure.

“This community was two hours away from any accessible doctor, so [the woman] wasn’t going to go out of her way for two hours and find a source of transportation just for a headache,” Tufankjian said. “But we ended up actually supplying her with a whole entire year of blood pressure medication that she was able to purchase by herself through our organization.”

After the clinic is over, though, many communities still will not have a permanent health center nearby, so it is also important to the GMB volunteers to help educate communities on what they can do in their daily lives to stay healthy.

“We try to encourage people to follow the avenues that we students use,” Desan said. “For example, we taught a young kid how to brush his teeth. That was something that we found really fun, but also such a valuable experience. There are still small things that you can do outside of a clinic that make you a healthier person.”

For Babu, the best part about GMB is the sincere dedication all its members have to helping people to the fullest extent possible.

“I think that’s the most important point, the intention behind going and the intention behind doing all the things we do to help these people,” Babu said. “We get feedback about all the consultations that we did, and that, to me, is the best thing ever. A couple of college students were able to go and make an international impact.”

To donate to the UCity GMB, participate in their fundraising events or visit https://fundraise.globalbrigades.org/empowered/chapter/university-of-the-sciences-medical-brigades-chapter.

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Ally Engelbert
Ally Engelbert, Managing Editor
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