Taking a different kind of family summer vacation, two former University of Michigan Hospital Residents and their children recently spent eight days in Guatemala bringing medical care to some of the hemisphere's poorest people.
Doctors Phillip and Tanya Rodgers, with their daughters Maddie and Ellie, went on a medical mission organized by International Samaritan, a charity based in Ann Arbor that serves men, women, and children living in garbage dump communities of developing countries worldwide. As part of a team of 16 volunteers, the Rodgers helped treat more than 300 medical and dental patients.
“Treating everything from acid reflux to diabetes, we saw scores of patients every day,” stated Tanya Rodgers, “which sometimes felt overwhelming. Fortunately, International Samaritan was well-organized from start to finish – even providing needed medications – so we really felt like we were able to make a difference for people who are truly in need. It was good to let them know other people care.”
Though Phil Rodgers had participated in International Samaritan medical missions twice before, the family was nervous about going on one together. But in the end, Maddie and Ellie Rodgers were glad to be involved, helping distribute vitamins, soaps, and other necessities, as well as organizing crafts with some of the local children, using supplies brought from the US.
“Everyone was so nice and reassuring to us,” said Ellie, aged 11. “It gave me a big sense of accomplishment and I would like to do it again.”
“This was my first time doing something like this,” Maddie, aged 13, recalled, “but it felt really good to help the people, and it was fun using the beads, pipe-cleaners, and watercolors with the other kids.”
Among those treated was a family suffering a severe case of scabies, a highly contagious skin disease caused by an infestation of itch mites. After assessing the family members, Tanya Rodgers prescribed medicine, which the medical mission provided, then directed volunteers from the local Dominican Sisters to thoroughly clean the family's home to limit the risk of reinfection. The Rodgers also made a house call to evaluate and treat a woman so ill she could not walk to the clinic.
In addition to assessing and treating patients’ illnesses, the medical team also provided many garbage dump community members with their first ever medical records using fEMR. The fEMR system employs an intranet signal that creates a private network and allows medical professionals to input patient data onto one server. Doctors, nurses, and pharmacy personnel can immediately access that information, which will also be available to future medical mission participants.
“People living and working in the garbage dumps have almost no access to health services,” said Phil Rodgers. “It was great to be part of a group whose only purpose was to do good, and wonderful to share the experience with our daughters.”
“This trip was a tremendously positive experience,” Rodgers said. “We look forward to coming back.”
Doctor Phillip Rodgers at Health Clinic in Guatemala City, Guatemala
Ellie (left) and Maddie (right) Rodgers distributing vitamins and other necessities at the health clinic.
Tanya Rodgers at Santa Clara Nursery