Although the USA has been my home for half my life, Haiti is still very much a part of me. When that earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, despair hit me, but it also rekindled my passion for medicine. I knew that one day I would return and provide medical care, but I had no idea that it was in God’s plan for me to return much sooner than I anticipated.

During a summer elective, I joined a group called Volunteers in Medical Missions. They organize medical mission trips worldwide and were very active in Haiti after the earthquake. They had an upcoming trip to Haiti and I wanted to participate but I wondered if it was the right time for me. I realized that this might turn out to be just the adventure I needed, so I agreed to participate.

When we travelled to Haiti in August, I was nervous and excited to be a part of the journey. We worked in different cities and in addition to my medical contribution, I did some Creole interpretation. There were so many diseases that I had read about in textbooks, but seeing them first hand helped me to understand them better. Many of their problems were common but complicated because they have no access to regular health care.

We hit the ground working immediately, sometimes without breaks. We saw 2200 people, providing antibiotics, dental extractions, pediatric care, and other services. Patients formed lines to see each group of volunteers, who heard their medical complaints and provided them with a diagnosis and prescription, to be filled at the “medicine shack.” The last two days were challenging, because we had to hike thirty minutes up a mountain to reach some of the most deserving patients, but every night the gratitude we received for helping would soften the harsh environment outside. People we treated kept coming back from day to day to thank the team, and asked when we would return to help them.

This trip had a profound effect on me – it was a life-changing, humbling week that all medical personnel should experience. It focused my dedication to medicine, and I hope I can continue to serve needy communities. I am really thankful to associations like these for volunteering their time to help those who are less fortunate. I definitely encourage students to investigate these opportunities and participate. In addition to the personal enlightenment, it provides an amazing addition to your CV and much to talk about during a residency interview. I got an amazing opportunity to be a part of a medical mission, and I know it is in God’s plan for me to do even more. I can’t wait to go back!

by Alberto Marcelin, Class of 2011