Health Care Across the Hemisphere

Faculty, staff, and students from the School of Nursing and Health Studies have forged close ties within some of the world’s most vulnerable populations, providing much-needed clinical care, comfort, and community support.

Healing In Haiti

SONHS faculty and students see as many as 1,000 patients per year, many of whom are children, during medical mission trips to rural villages near Thomonde, Haiti, where residents rarely receive care. The benefits are great, both for the Central Plateau communities and for the more than 50 SONHS Family Nurse Practitioner and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) students each year who participate. “The hands-on exposure our students receive on these trips reinforces the importance of culturally tailored interventions while we provide valuable services to the global community,” says Dr. Johis Ortega, associate dean for Hemispheric and Global Initiatives and associate professor of clinical at the SONHS, who has been leading the outreach effort for several years.

As a SONHS DNP student, Marecia Bell, DNP ’18, completed her first medical volunteer mission outside of the United States in Haiti. “I’ve never experienced anything like what I experienced in rural Haiti in my 20-year nursing career,” she recounts. “I cried every day. It took me to a whole new level, not just personally, but professionally. I couldn’t believe we could be so close to another country and not event have a clue the poor conditions they were living in.” There were bright spots, too, like the children joyful to see Dr. Ortega again, laughing and hugging him, and the camaraderie Bell experienced with her SONHS community. “This was a family atmosphere. We leaned on each other,” she says. “I pray that I’m able to continue on this medical mission with the University of Miami and continue to serve Haiti and any other country with health care disparities.” Christopher Mourra Thompson, MSN ’18, who grew up in Haiti, has taken part in two SONHS trips to Thomonde. “It’s so well-organized, and you can tell every faculty member is there from the sincerity of their heart,” he says. “It was such an amazing experience to give back to my community. I had to go back.”

Support For Santiago

SONHS faculty, staff, and students travel to the Dominican Republic to run clinics and promote health education in rural areas. Partnering with Clínica Unión Médica and the Foundation for Community Assistance (FUPAC), they conduct free health screenings in Los Montones Arriba, San Jose de las Matas, testing residents for cardiovascular issues, hypertension, cholesterol, glucose, and BMI. For years the SONHS has collaborated with Clínica Unión Medica. Most recently, that partnership was formalized with an educational and research exchange agreement enabling SONHS nurse practitioner students to rotate through various departments of the private hospital, located in Santiago De Los Caballeros. They work alongside physicians and medical residents to perform intracranial intubations, central line placements, incisions, suturing, and drainages. SONHS faculty also present a Basic Life Support lecture for nurses at Clínica Unión Medica, including a crash cart demonstration and an interactive component allowing nurses to practice chest compressions and ventilations on mannequins; an ultrasound course for ICU and Emergency Department physicians is taught there as well. The lectures transmit valuable evidence-based knowledge to the hospital’s workforce while elevating the education and visibility of nurses in the D.R. “Our U.S. students observe that the role of nurses in the D.R. differs, and they learn to appreciate the leadership role nurses are playing in transforming our nation’s health care landscape,” says Juan M. Gonzalez, SONHS assistant professor of clinical and Family Nurse Practitioner program director. “And when our students are seen performing independently during these trips, they also help to model a new role for nurses and stimulate the growth of the nursing profession in Latin America.”