What a Haiti Trip Means to Future Doctors

Dr. Bosworth is ever mindful of her call to teach as well as serve in Haiti. She has created a course of study for which Haiti is the lecture hall, the laboratory, and the textbook.

Student doctor Alicia Palmer discovered how thoroughly Haiti can teach. “Not having access to lab tests and X-rays means pausing to thinking critically about the symptom picture, your physical findings, and the most likely outcomes.”

That’s precisely what Dr. Bosworth learned on her first visit to Haiti. She returned to South Dakota knowing she’d just practiced, by far, the best medicine of her life! Student Kayt Calmus describes the same feeling. In Haiti, she says, a physician learns to rely on her own skills to examine a patient and ask the right questions. Kayt returned from her Haiti trip revitalized in her dedication to medicine.

Time spent in Haiti can encourage medical students to fashion careers around strong commitment to patients of every socio-economic station. “Our current medical culture in the U.S. focuses on an altruistic goal of delivering exceptional care without considering who will pay the bill or how,” adds Dr. Bosworth. “In Haiti, students will confront the connection between poverty and little or no medical care. I believe this mission experience will change a medical student forever!”

Students looking ahead to a medical degree can learn from this trip as well. Sam Fogas, a pre-med student at the University of Minnesota, had no idea how hands-on his Haiti experience would be. “I did (medical) things I never imagined I’d get to do this early in my career.”

Sam’s assigned role on the Haiti team was triage—determining which patients coming through the door were most in need of immediate care. “Along with another pre-med student and a social worker, I took temperatures, checked blood pressure, and interviewed patients through a translator.”

To be sure, that was a valuable service and useful experience for a future medical practitioner. But Sam is more likely to tell his college classmates about standing by as the Preventive Health Strategies (PHS) medical team performed four in-the-moment surgeries. “We got to be right there to see her deal with a very bad bacterial arm infection, for one thing. Dr. Bosworth explained why she did one procedure and not another.”

Sam was there when a small earthquake shook the makeshift operating room. Interpreters ran outside, fearing a repeat of the massive 2010 event in Haiti. The PHS team didn’t react to the tremors but stayed focused on completing the life-saving operation.