Hunterdon Healthcare Physicians Visit Dominican Republic on Global Health Mission

In May, seven Hunterdon Healthcare residents and physicians went to the Dominican Republic to provide medical care to low income Dominican and Haitian refugees. The goal of the trip was for the residents to learn about tropical medicine, public health implications on disease, cultural health beliefs and medicine in limited resource settings. The trip was organized in coordination with the nonprofit Give Back International: Crossroads.

The physicians and residents that participated in the trip were Cindy Barter, M.D., Faculty, Hunterdon Family Medicine at Phillips Barber; Elizabeth Koorie, M.D.,  Faculty, Hunterdon Family Medicine at Phillips Barber; Debra Curry, M.D., Faculty, Hunterdon Family Medicine at Delaware Valley; Yasmin Sharif, M.D., Family Medicine Resident, Hunterdon Family Medicine at Delaware Valley; Rebecca Lee, M.D., Family Medicine Resident, Hunterdon Family Medicine at Delaware Valley;  Junie Joseph, M.D., Family Medicine Resident, Hunterdon Family Medicine at Delaware Valley; and Nathaniel Joseph, spouse of Dr. Joseph. Melissa Burgos, M.D., Hunterdon Family Medicine at Phillips Barber, helped coordinate the trip.

“This was our second year taking the residents on this mission and it is a very worthwhile cause. These families and individuals welcome us into their lives with smiling faces despite their challenges to provide them care. It certainly provides an appreciated and often needed perspective on what we have here in the United States so easily accessible to us and reminds me to be so grateful,” stated Dr. Burgos.

The communities visited were La Union, Saman, Mozovi, Chichigua and Cangrejo.  The communities are tight clusters of mostly one to two room cement block small homes with concrete floor – many without running water or plumbing within the homes or electricity. The physicians treated over 550 patients with conditions such as viral illnesses and infections, but also skin problems and fungal infections, malnutrition, wounds, diabetes, hypertension and parasite. The residents also provided an educational session to community leaders to teach blood pressure and glucose monitoring to help them serve their communities better and monitor chronic disease, which is often a huge challenge in these communities.

“I can see the great differences between our health care systems and other countries. We can provide our patients the best care, medications, testing and labs. It is a good reminder that healthcare is a right not a privilege,” said Dr. Burgos.

One day during the trip, a man collapsed outside the door to the clinic. There are no ambulances, stretchers, oxygen or EMTs near the villages in the Dominican Republic where we were seeing patients.  Two of the team traveled with the patient in a borrowed truck to the nearby hospital, but were told they would have to go to another hospital for care. Once they arrived to the hospital, the family had to pay for any diagnostic testing that needed to be done as well as medicine that was administered at the hospital. If the family could not pay then the patient did not receive the medication or testing needed. Even food needed to be brought into the hospital by the family during a patient’s stay.

Thanks to the generous donations of local organizations and community members, the residents were able to visit the Dominican Republic with medications, supplies such as gowns and gloves and hygiene items. Some of the organizations that donated were Hunterdon Healthcare employees and volunteers,  WalMart in Flemington, Holland Pharmacy, MAP International, Direct Relief, Bowkers Pharmacy in Milford, The Medicine Shoppe in Lambertville, St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Alexandria Township.

“The experience is one that warms my heart and is truly humbling.  In a way, truthfully, we get back much more from this opportunity then we are able to give, but it is wonderful to feel that for some of the people there we may have truly made a difference,” said Dr. Burgos.

Blood pressure caption: Rebecca Lee, M.D., recent graduate of the family practice residency program at Hunterdon Medical Center, cares for a patient on a medical mission trip to the Dominican Republic.  Dr. Lee will be joining the Community Health Network’s Caribbean House Health Center as a staff physician in Brooklyn, NY.

Group Photo – Left to Right: In purple, Yasmin Sharif, M.D., recent graduate of the Family Practice Residency Program at Hunterdon Medical Center, Cindy Barter, M.D. , Faculty of the Family Practice Residency Program at Hunterdon Medical Center  and Family Practice Physician at Hunterdon Family Medicine at Phillips-Barber with patients they treated in the Dominican Republic.