Rachel Holcomb, third-year medical student at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg, spoke to the Buckhannon Rotary Club on Tuesday about her mission trips to the Dominican Republic where she treated patients.
Holcomb is from Spanish Fort, Ala., and graduated with a bachelor of science in psychology from the University of Miami. She said she knows a good deal of the Spanish language which helped her on her mission trip. The mission program in Dominican Republic has helped treat patients for eight years. Holcomb has been a part of the program for two years. She is completing her third year in the region of Buckhannon and Elkins.
She said the Dominican Republic is not a third-world country, but rather a country that is still developing. Holcomb said that long lines of patients would wait to be treated for various ailments that could have simple solutions that are readily available in the United States.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Melissa Toothman
Rachel Holcomb, a third-year medical student at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg, speaks about her experience treating patients in the Dominican Republic.
Treatment of some patients could be as simple as administering medications such as Tylenol or Advil, medications that are not easily accessible in the Dominican Republic and often cost more than families can afford.
Holcomb said that she, along with other students who traveled to help, passed out those medicines and vitamins they brought along with them completely free of charge to families at the clinic where they helped, the Community Service Alliance in Neiba.
"It's really a great thing that we get to do," Holcomb said, adding that the clinics in the rural area she visited were understaffed.
Many doctors that live in the Dominican Republic don't want to work in the area because of the landscape of rolling hills and for other reasons. Holcomb said she wouldn't always work out of clinics, but also worked out of schools and churches. If an examination table wasn't available, patients would have to use a mat on the floor.
Patients would often arrive in family units to be treated, but Holcomb said the men were often too shy to participate in medical treatment. She said she and the other students would be able to see about 200 to 300 patients a day, and the lines seemed to be very long.
She said the people of the Dominican Republic worked hard. She treated the 12-year-old girl who complained of shoulder pains. That girl often had to walk two miles in one direction to fetch buckets of water and carry the water back home. Holcomb said it was the same for many of the residents.
Holcomb said she is very passionate about the work she does. She hopes to be able to go on a month-long rotation in Dominican Republic again in March.
"I want to be able to learn more about the culture, more about the health impacts and the field there," Holcomb said, adding that she also wants to improve her knowledge of the Spanish language.