The University of Guelph is a 60-year-old Canadian institution with a rich history of helping students leave the world a better place than they found it. Part of that mission has included introducing Global Medical Brigades to the student body.
U of G’s chapter of Global Medical Brigades (GMB) has raised $212,518 and sent 7 brigade teams internationally to sustainably impact rural communities and provide mobile medical clinics. Passionate students and local staff are who make these brigades possible.
Guelph students, including Adrienne Ciaravella, have seen over 700 patients across their multiple brigades. “Global Medical Brigades appealed to me,” says Adrienne, a volunteer who traveled on a brigade to Honduras, “because of the holistic approach that is employed.”
Keep reading to learn more about how GMB impacts real students’ medical careers and personal outlooks. You can join your local chapter or start a new chapter on your campus!
Expect the Unexpected
Adrienne Ciaravella and her group were confused when they were setting up a mobile clinic at the beginning of their trip, when no one from the community had shown up.
“The community believed we were sent by a political party that they did not support,” they learned.
They joined another nearby brigade team for that day, but the strange thought stuck with Adrienne. Even with such deep medical disparities, people found reasons not to seek care for their conditions — known or unknown. It’s one way white saviorism can lead to worse circumstances in many communities around the world.
“In the future, I hope to be able to do more to support and empower communities. But for now, I will continue to be an advocate for equality in healthcare [wherever I can].”
Patient's Voices Are Critical
“The next day we went to a completely different community,” Adrienne explains. “You would never have known that they found out we were coming the day prior, they were so welcoming and thankful we were there.”
“When I was working with the [local] doctors,” Adrienne recounts, “they diagnosed many medical conditions without the common diagnostic tools that we are so used to.”
She knew there were healthcare disparities in other parts of the world, but it was completely different to experience it firsthand.
“I watched one of the doctors diagnose kidney stones, which usually requires an ultrasound or even a CT scan.” But the doctor diagnosed kidney stones just from “talking with the patient and listening to their symptoms.”
One day, as a pediatric surgeon, Adrienne will carry to her own practice this understanding that each patient's voice is critical.
Children Are Unique
“I intend to become a surgeon, and I want to work with children,” Adrienne tells us.
Adrienne was surprised to see in person that many of the community’s children were seeing a doctor for “the first time in their life.”
“Children’s voices are often not heard because people tend to overlook them and speak only to their parents.” And she hasn’t just heard about children being overlooked.
“I myself have experienced this, and as a doctor, I intend to do all I can to acknowledge and take into consideration my patients’ symptoms and what they are experiencing, no matter their age.”
Across the globe, thousands of students like Adrienne Ciaravella are joining their campuses’ GMB chapters and traveling around the world to bring about sustainable healthcare change to underserved communities.
“Access to healthcare is a global issue,” Adrienne laments, “and without doctors like those volunteering with Global Medical Brigades and other organizations, there will be little change.”
Adrienne continues, “I would tell anyone with the opportunity and the means to go on a brigade to 100% do it… The experiences I gained through working with Global Medical Brigades have been invaluable.”
Join or start a Global Brigades Chapter at your university!