Kaitlynn Lopes - West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine
Last March, 2022, I was fortunate enough to attend DOCARE's medical mission to Iquitos, Peru. While I was excited and extremely grateful for the opportunity, I was still apprehensive about serving this community in such a new role (as a student doctor). However, as soon as I saw the welcoming faces of our patients, their families, and the parish, my anxieties and fears washed away. Everyone we passed was so happy to have us there and welcomed us at every turn. Mothers and children were eager to share their most personal stories; elderly folks were lined up to get wellness checks; men and women alike were hopeful that we would help them with whatever ailments they presented with. This sense of complete trust and immense hope was something I did not anticipate encountering on this trip. I did not expect to enter into this community and feel wholly accepted & valued. I did not expect to have an impact on the lives of those around me.
One morning, while working with a pediatrician, a family arrived. Mom was visibly upset. Child was happy and playing. The clinician and I were confused because Mom's heightened emotions did not seem to match Child's state of health; nonetheless, we began examining the child and listened intently to Mom's concerns. A relative had scared Mom into thinking that her child was cursed because of a marking that appeared on the upper lip following consumption of an acidic fruit. Mom was so afraid of the potential curse and/or the possible diagnosis of vitiligo, which had fueled her misinformed fears regarding her child, that when we had finished the examination and confirmed that the diagnosis was not life-threatening, not vitiligo, and not an indication of tampered spiritual existence, Mom began to cry. In that moment, I realized the power of education and the positive impact that one person can have. Through the healthcare profession, it is our responsibility to serve those around us. This trip & the interactions with my team and our patients taught me the power of connection. I entered Peru as a student of medicine feeling lost and apprehensive, but on the boat ride back to the airport, I became like that Mom, overcome with emotion. I cried the entire ride back because the experiences that I had in Peru changed my life and my academic trajectory. I left Peru as a global citizen with a renewed sense of purpose. I left Peru with a commitment to understand the pain and pasts of my future patients, and I set out on a personal mission to build a connection with each human being that I was to treat. I left Peru with new friends and colleagues, but most importantly, I left Peru knowing that our team instilled in the community sustainable practices for improving health.
Kaitlynn Lopes, OMS-I
West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine