A team of AdventHealth Global Missions volunteers traveled to the Dominican Republic in February 2020 to provide primary care services to about 2,000 patients. Medical school graduates from two residency programs were among the group: family medicine residents from AdventHealth Winter Park and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) residents from AdventHealth East Orlando.
“Family medicine is a specialty that has a wide scope of practice, but more importantly, it’s a specialty that can adapt to communities’ needs,” said Alexander Fishberg, associate program director for the AdventHealth Winter Park Family Medicine Residency. ”More than many other specialties, family medicine works in rural and underserved communities. Mission trips are important in their own right, but they also allow us to show that, if you care, you can make a difference anywhere.”
Mission trips are not a requirement for AdventHealth’s family medicine residents but are sought after nonetheless.
“These trips are influential in creating the next wave of physicians that are mission-minded,” said Shelby Houmann, communications specialist and event coordinator for AdventHealth Global Missions. “That’s not easy to teach.”
More than 20 volunteers participated in the trip. They included eight family medicine doctors — four in training and four attending — in addition to nurses, pharmacists, project managers, and leaders. The team volunteered in communities in and outside of the capital of Santo Domingo, including the town of Samaná, which is in the north part of the country.
Joshua Smit and Bianca Stewart, both second-year family medicine residents, learned about the mission trip through Fishberg. They spent their time in the Dominican Republic triaging and assisting patients and offering medical treatment or suggestions for additional medical care within the local infrastructure. Stewart said she appreciated the opportunity to work with a diverse group of volunteers from clinical and non-clinical backgrounds. Smit liked connecting with his original reasons for getting into medicine.
“As we’re trying to get through our residencies, some of us can develop tunnel vision and forget why we got into medicine in the first place,” Smit said. “Mission trips allow us to take a step back, serve others, and get to know a different culture. It helps us grow and, at the same time, have a little fun.”
The mission trip was the first to the Dominican Republic since that country officially became part of the AdventHealth Global Missions footprint. The working relationship between AdventHealth, which operates 50 hospitals throughout the United States, and Santo Domingo’s Centro Médico Vista del Jardín started many years ago, however, with team members from various AdventHealth facilities organizing medical mission trips to the country in the past. As these trips continue, leaders said, the relationship will only be strengthened.
“During this mission trip, I had the opportunity to meet with Centro Médico Vista del Jardín’s CEO, CFO, chief of staff, chief of obstetrics, chief of emergency medicine, and even the architect who designed the facility,” Fishberg said. “Our meetings were thoughtful and constructive. I was left with the hope that I would be returning to the Dominican Republic in the near future.”