UM Global Medical Brigades to provide medical care for Panama’s underprivileged communities

This winter break, 29 undergraduate students will take a week-long medical service trip to the communities of Tranquilla and El Retiro in West Panama.

During the excursion, hosted by the University of Miami chapter of Global Medical Brigades, volunteers will be able to help those in need of medical assistance to improve both the immediate and long-term quality of life. The trip will be led by Brigade leaders Danielle Neskora and Helen Kattoura.

“We hope to accomplish providing medical services to as many people as possible during our clinic and develop a sustainable health system that leaves a lasting impact long after we’re gone,” said Kattoura, a senior majoring in health science on the pre-med track.

Global Brigades was established in 2012 with the mission of implementing a better quality of life across the world, enacting a holistic approach that builds community independence. They work in remote, under-resourced areas of Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua and Ghana to bring healthcare to those with limited access to it.

On the first day of this voyage to Panama, the brigade will visit the communities and interview families to understand the health concerns of the individuals and the community as a whole, said Kattoura.

“Days two, three and four,” said Kattoura, “we will be running medical clinics with the help of physicians and nurses from Panama. On day five, we will be running a wellness and health fair where we will cover five of the most important and relevant topics to the communities in Panama and educating them on ways to improve their health outcomes,” she said.

These five topics are women’s health and prenatal care, oral hygiene and dental care, chronic conditions and disease transmission, nutrition and exercise, and water sanitation and hydration, according to chapter president Shruti Karnani, a junior majoring in neuroscience.

Students will be able to apply their medical interests through volunteer work abroad—an opportunity for anyone who is looking for a way to gain hands-on, direct experience in a humanitarian way.

“It was a great opportunity to meet new people who had similar interests, while also participate in something I was truly passionate about,” said Karnani, referring to her joint medical and public health brigade to Nicaragua as a freshman in 2016. “I appreciated the beautiful moments where we could witness the impact we made in the Nicaragua community.”

Although Karnani will not be taking part in this upcoming trip to Panama, she plans on leading a Medical Brigade to Ghana in May 2019 along with the organization’s treasurer, Tina Pham.