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7 Elements at IUSM

Dominican Republic

These photos are from our service learning trip to the Dominican Republic in December 2017. The beautiful beach that was a two minute walk from where we stayed at the 7 Elements headquarters. Digging trenches and placing water piping. We were welcomed into this community and project with open arms, despite our efforts that were much slower than the strong community volunteers. Summary data of the two clinic days we experienced. We worked alongside two communities: Cano Dulce and Severe. Each community allowed us invaluable learning experiences.

On December 16th, 2017, we traveled to the 7 Elements headquarters in the Dominican Republic (DR) on a service learning trip. Our team consisted of eight individuals: four first year medical students, a fifth year MD/MPH student, a fifth year MD/PhD student, and two faculty. For some, myself included, it was our first time going on a mission-oriented trip. For others, they had experienced these service-focused trips more frequently. This diversity of past experiences among our group fostered a beautiful team dynamic that allowed us to grow together during both the preparation and duration of our time with 7 Elements, Dominican Republic. With a great passion for global health, embarking on this journey was one of my most meaningful IUSM experiences so far. I had the opportunity to communicate with people of different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, explore sustainable global health, and grow relationships with my colleagues.

On clinic days, I witnessed firsthand the impact of language barriers in healthcare. There were ample opportunities of shadowing the Haitian physician who offered consultation services to the two communities we served. During these clinic days, it was clear that we were not coming to save the day for these individuals who, in spite of their insufficiencies and deprivations, have survived and thrived for many years. Rather, we were given the opportunity to walk alongside a Haitian physician and these communities for a short period of time. To learn and play a small role in the long-term partnership that 7 Elements has with DR communities. These clinic days sparked my curiosity to learn more about the community’s food sources and survival tactics, and before I even had time to ask questions, we were harvesting honey from local bees’ hives. Literally. One of the community members took us to his bee farm where he allowed us to taste fresh honey from one of his hives. Besides clinic days, we dug trenches for water piping. We set a goal for ourselves, and neither the rainy mud piles nor scourging sun could stop us. Each one of us, including faculty members and our Haitian physician friend, worked alongside the community members, all of whom loved to tell stories and jokes.

After each long day of hard work, we always had some time off in the evenings before our team debrief and learning sessions. This is usually when Shae, Mohammad, or Nate would try to teach me how to swim. These are my classmates, who I have known all semester, but with the rigorous intensity of medical school it seemed like travelling together and experiencing this unique 7 Elements service learning provided the best time to get to know them better. And it was. Each of us connected with one another, built an unbreakable bond and rapport, and grew to know each other’s values and passions. During our evening debrief, we explored many topics including human security, global vs. local security, and voodoo in healthcare. Following this, we had more team bonding that often turned into dance parties during which Kaydra taught us some dance moves.

Global volunteerism is an opportunity to immerse oneself into another’s culture. With an open mind, we can speak with the community. Eat with them. Work with them. And learn from them. For future physicians, it is an invaluable opportunity to explore a different healthcare system, and by asking the right questions, we might be able to add some tools to our tool boxes on how to better serve the underserved communities here in Indianapolis, just like our organization (7E at IUSM) hopes for via our partnership with Fletcher Place Community Center. Ultimately, it is a time to work alongside future colleagues and close friends. As we begin to prepare for another team’s return to the DR, we hope that you can join us to harvest more honey, dig trenches in the rain, experience global health clinics, learn some Spanish, and be become better physicians.

– Vitalis Osuji, 7 Elements President of Global Initiatives

These photos are from our service learning trip to the Dominican Republic in December 2017.
The beautiful beach that was a two minute walk from where we stayed at the 7 Elements headquarters.

Digging trenches and placing water piping. We were welcomed into this community and project with open arms, despite our efforts that were much slower than the strong community volunteers.

We worked alongside two communities: Caño Dulce and Severe. Each community allowed us invaluable learning experiences.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
Author

Shae Jansen

7 Elements Vice President of Global Initiatives