Volunteer Reflections: Carlos Altez | Chincha October 2015

National volunteers with Canadian physicians

During the week of October 19 to 23, a medical mission organized by PAMS (Peruvian American Medical Society) and the Canadian Foundation TANGO (Taber-through Assisting Nations Global Outreach) was held in Chincha. I had the great opportunity to join the group of 20 volunteers composed of undergraduate medical students and graduate doctors and dentists.

The mission was led by Dr. Manuel Valdivieso who divided the participants into eight working groups; cataract surgery, general surgery, dentistry at the PAMS clinic, medical and dental care in the communities of Chincha, gastroenterology at the PAMS clinic, internal medicine at the PAMS clinic, education and construction.

The PAMS-Chincha mission is the first medical mission that I have participated in. I found the experience to be pleasantly enriching and enjoyed the opportunity to support the community, participate in medical practice, and to be a part of an international team.

Chincha was one of the cities hardest hit by the earthquake of 2007, so there are still many unmet health and housing needs. The poorest and neediest concentrations of people are in the remote villages and therefore require more attention. Being assigned to the group that worked out in the community, we visited 4 of these locations. The Canadian team of doctors, dentists, nurses and optometrists were able to serve more than 150 patients per day. Tending to this many patients every day was not easy, so everyone had to actively participate in the discussion of clinical cases. As an undergraduate medical student, I could perform and report complete histories in English and participate in the conversation about choosing the proper treatment with the Canadian and Peruvian doctors. While most of the patients had very common diseases, there were some who arrived with very advanced cases, making it very alarming and sad that they were not able to receive attention previously. For example, we received one elderly woman with hands that were totally deformed by rheumatoid arthritis, we saw another man with serious injuries because he had never been diagnosed with psoriasis, and we saw an 11 year old girl with Downs Syndrome who had possible heart disease and never had any prior checks, among others. None of these cases had access to comprehensive health insurance. There is no doubt that this highlights the imperfection and inequality of the Peruvian health system, but it also shows us the reality and motivates the volunteers to work for our country.

The farewell dinner

I was really touched by the people's appreciation. Despite working almost 10 hours straight, there is nothing as rewarding as receiving the gestures of joy, hugs and kind words from those in need. I am happy with the work that was done on this PAMS mission and am fully motivated to continue to support the efforts to improve the health of the underserved population.

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