By: Riddhi Patel, MD3
It had been almost a year since the local community of Aruba came together with the staff and students of Xavier University School of Medicine to administer the health fair. It was a win-win phenomenon: XUSOM students gained real life experience in a hands-on setting with patients by performing a routine health checkup.
The health fair was a combined effort from those at XUSOM who administered the fair along with the local patients who participated and thus played a role in making this event successful. It was both an educational and insightful event organized by some of the senior students who are members of the Family Medicine Interest Group, members of other XUSOM organizations, and various faculty members from the University. Everyone who coordinated the event deserves a “thank you” from us students as well as the local Aruban community for all their hard work, assistance, patience and cooperative nature.
The halls of our school were filled with smiles from both patients and students. There were close to 250 patients, all of whom were tested to check for a variety of parameters including cholesterol, blood glucose, BMI, blood pressure, hearing and vision – the students were still ready for more. The rooms we worked in and the many others we visited enabled us to see just how cooperative and appreciating the local people were towards the effort we had put in. To create the right balance between excellence in patient care and hospitality, we also provided refreshments for the patients. This balance did help the patients appreciate the fact that we at XUSOM were highly grateful to them for coming out and being a medium through which we could apply our gained knowledge while also benefiting them.
True to the natural tendency of any medical student, initially some of us would have thought, “Well we are not doctors yet, so why should we have to focus on anything else but studying?” However, despite these thoughts and opinions, every student attended and carried out their assigned duties with enthusiasm. As the health fair progressed and as we came across many different patients, we were able to see just how much we were learning even when we were not sitting in front of books, classrooms and PowerPoint presentations. This health fair was an excellent way to put our acquired knowledge and communication skills to work.
Communication is a highly essential tool that all good doctors should possess. Communication does not necessarily mean one must be fluent in spoken English to get the message across. This was witnessed by quite a few of us as we were helping many local patients who were not able to communicate in English. We would say it was a two way street – we communicated in English, the patients communicated in Papiamento, and when neither of us understood each other, we skipped to sign language. Much to our surprise, language did not seem as big a barrier as one would anticipate, since we discovered other ways to get our message across. Of course there were times when we really needed to provide an explanation through words to the patients who did not understand English, and thanks to some of our staff and students who were able to speak Papiamento, they bridged that gap by translating.
Talking to some of the first year students – us being among them – we all agree that we’ve enjoyed the opportunity to give back to the community. It was a good time to practice some of the skills we had learned thus far. Overall, it was a great way for all students to get to know each other, work together as a team, and realize how important it is to work collaboratively in medicine.
We hope this project continues moving forward and expanding its outreach. It will continue to provide a positive view of the University to the community, and allow for University-community relationships to keep growing. Also, the clinical and interpersonal experiences that the students received were invaluable and will be remembered for a long time.