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Monday, April 24, 2017 - 1:45pm

Mercy College’s Physical Therapy Graduate Program, Communication Disorders Graduate Program and Physician Assistant Graduation Program students recently participated on a humanitarian aid mission trip to the Dominican Republic. The team consisted of eighteen students and four faculty members. The College partnered with Inca Kola and Friends of Lead Free Children. Chief Community Relations Officer Lenny Caro helped develop the partnerships and arrange the mission. The Dominican Republic was chosen based on the country’s notoriety for some of the highest levels of lead poisoning in the world. The team visited three sites including an orphanage in Santo Domingo, community centers in Haina and a rural health center in the villages of the sugar field workers.


Each morning, the students traveled to villages outside the capital of Santo Domingo to provide free screenings and medications to mothers and children of the community. In just a few days, the Mercy College team of students attended to hundreds of women and children who were eager to take advantage of the free clinics. The Mercy College health professional team screened children for some of the issues related to exposure to high levels of lead in their environment such as learning disabilities, neurological issues and behavior problems. Physical therapy students performed gross motor screenings, communication disorder students performed hearing and speech screenings, and physician assistant students paired with physicians from Aetna and Affinity health care to perform primary care health screenings.


The students who participated gained not only experience, but a new understanding of the world around them. Physical Therapy graduate student Timothy Caulfield said, “The medical mission turned into a humbling event within the first day. Many of the children presented with ailments that could be easily and affordably attended to in the United States. However, due to the debilitating poverty some of these families were facing these conditions were quickly becoming life threatening. This trip allowed me to take my knowledge, transform it into palpable care, and give it to families that need it most.”


Physical Therapy graduate student Ray Hoffman described the benefits of working in an inter-disciplinary environment, “Having the opportunity to interact with other professions through working with the students from the Communication Disorders and Physician Assistant Programs was enlightening. When we begin working in our prospective fields, we will inevitably be working as a team when treating patients, and having early prior knowledge of and comradery with these other professions will benefit us as well as the populations we treat.”


Physician Assistant graduate student Elise Tetelman highlighted the importance of language when treating patients, “we were given ample opportunity to utilize our medical Spanish, which is a skill that is essential to establishing the clinician-patient rapport that leads us to the proper diagnosis. This incredible opportunity will be valuable to us as we jumpstart our medical careers.”