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As an aspiring health professional in university, you know that the delivery of healthcare is the end product of a variety of complex factors, such as a patient’s ability to access services or a hospital’s ability to retain its staff. From village to city, from region to nation, the many methods by which important healthcare considerations are addressed converge around a singular purpose: the wellbeing of the communities that they serve.
It is our great pleasure to offer a community healthcare work experience project in the Dominican Republic specifically for university students. This project can be pursued in addition to a Gap Medics pre-professional programme, offering you the unique opportunity to compare clinical environments while supporting your host community.
Our community healthcare programme is open all year, and you can attend for as many weeks as you like (we recommend two). Programmes begin on Sundays and end on Saturdays, leaving ample time for you to arrive at and depart from your destination.
The Dominican Republic has one of the best healthcare systems in the Caribbean and is graced with a year-round tropical climate. Unfortunately, the warm weather also comes with a high incidence of mosquito-borne illnesses, like dengue and malaria. In addition, a high rate of motor vehicle accidents contributes to busy trauma centres throughout the country. In addition to our career-centred programmes in Santo Domingo, we also offer this community health project facilitated by our non-profit partner hospital.
In the midst of such idyllic surroundings, it can be all too easy to forget that the Dominican Republic is home to some of the poorest communities in the Caribbean. If you go beyond the resort cities and tourist centres, you’ll find the dirt roads and dilapidated houses that Haitian sugarcane workers call home. Known as “bateyes,” the living conditions in these villages leave much to be desired, providing scarce access to basic facilities like running water. While Haitian workers are entitled to healthcare in the Dominican Republic, low wages make it near impossible for them to afford transportation to a clinic or hospital – the average worker earns about five dollars a day working dawn until dusk.
But where there’s a will, there’s a way. What would you do if you heard that an entire population could not access vital healthcare services because they couldn’t afford the transportation? For our partner hospital in Santo Domingo and its associated mission groups, the answer was simple: they would bring the clinics to them.
You will volunteer in the heart of the bateyes, meeting with your professional healthcare mentor every morning and traveling with them to a local Haitian community in order to assist with the set-up and running of a pop-up clinic. In just one week, you’ll visit several different locations to observe and support the delivery of essential healthcare in rural, community-focused environments. Working alongside doctors from our partner hospital (a not-for-profit organisation), other Gap Medics students, and mission groups, you will assist your mentor as they deliver treatment and advice to up to 180 patients per day.
You may not be able to change the world overnight, but you can begin to make a real difference to the lives of Haitian people living and working in the Dominican Republic today. In the process, you will observe a wide variety of conditions, including high blood pressure, parasitic and fungal infections, wounds, and malnutrition. Your mentor – an experienced doctor or other healthcare practitioner – will help you get the most from your experience by providing clear guidance and supervision, and helping you understand what you witness each day.
Dr Angela Miguel has more than 20 years of experience and has spent her entire career working in the community. If you are assigned to Dr Angela, you will meet with her at a set location each morning and then accompany her to one of the many bateys in La Romana, where she will assess and treat a large number of patients throughout the day. Some of the patients she assesses have conditions that are too severe to be treated in the community, so she refers them back the hospital when needed. If Dr Angela has any time left at the end of the day, she sometimes visits the local orphanages to offer healthcare services to the children.
We believe that all members of our staff have a responsibility to protect and care for our students, and our greatest pride is the relaxed family environment that we create to help foster your education and exploration. In addition to chefs, housekeepers, night managers, and security teams, Gap Medics houses also employ dedicated placement coordinators to help support and guide you throughout your community health programme.
Your placement coordinators will brief you at the Gap Medics house, accompany you to the hospital, and introduce you to your mentors. As experts on our destinations and offerings, these friendly individuals also love to advise our students on local travel opportunities and facilitate exciting and inclusive on-site activities – so if you fancy a game of volleyball, a traditional barbecue, or a table-football tournament, they will have you covered.
Edwige, commonly known as Edwin, is our friendly and smiley placement coordinator in La Romana, Dominican Republic. Originally from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, he previously worked as an English and French teacher and also as an interpreter. He’s been living in La Romana for nine years already and is our newest recruit to the Gap Medics team. Edwin makes sure that all of our students are introduced to their mentors and is ready to help you navigate hospital life in the Caribbean.