Vol. 12 No. 8 - March, 2010

Interprofessional team undertake annual medical mission in the Dominican Republic

DR team
The medical mission team that traveled to the Dominican Republic in 2009

For the last four years, students and faculty from UMass Medical School have been traveling to the Dominican Republic during spring break to provide essential medical care to Haitian refugees living and working on the sugar cane plantations surrounding the city of La Romana. Since 2008, these UMMS mission teams have been interprofessional, comprising students and faculty preceptors from both the School of Medicine and the Graduate School of Nursing.

The teams visit the Dominican Republic in March and are hosted by the Good Samaritan Foundation, an organization that has served Haitians working in these sugar cane fields for more than 20 years. The sugar cane workers live in rural villages that lack many basic necessities, including running water and electricity. The volunteers who travel to the Dominican Republic—doctors, nurses, optometrists, construction workers—bring their different skills and talents, but share the desire to help people in need.

During these mission trips, students and faculty have the opportunity to learn more about medicine, medically underserved populations and themselves. On a typical day, a nurse practitioner student and a medical student pair up to interview, perform physical exams, and develop working differential diagnoses and care plans for the workers and their families. The teams learn about uncontrolled hypertension, women’s health issues, chronic eye disorders related to the lack of sun protection and the effects of dehydration and malnutrition. In addition to gaining medical knowledge, the medical and nursing students learn about each other and the roles and responsibilities of their respective professions.

Interprofessional education is essential to building future collaborative health care teams that will improve clinical outcomes in health care delivery. An important outcome of this immersion experience is a chance to break down educational silos and foster mutual understanding and respect in these future health care providers.