Bellin Guate2020-47

Bellin College students, faculty, Bellin providers head to Guatemala

Bellin College students recently returned from a medical mission with Mission El Faro to the Izabal region of Guatemala on the East Coast. There were 13 students and 1,400 pounds of medical supplies in tow for the trip. The team traveling consisted of the 13 students, Bellin College faculty, nurse practitioners, nurses who are prior graduates of the college, support individuals and physicians at Bellin Health.

Students returned to the Eliza Martinez Children’s Hospital, the only publicly run children’s hospital in Guatemala, built in 1952 which functions on very low funding from the government. The group brought needed medical and general supplies and large amounts of infant formula to the hospital. The students also taught paramedic and staff members their annual CPR certification and how to utilize the Kits for Girls which are menstrual hygiene kits for teen girls.

For the fifth year, the team set up portable clinics in the villages of Baltimore (80 patients), Rio Salado (76 patients), and the Puerto Barrios Dump (80 patients). This year they served a new community deeper in the jungle called Plan Grande (80 patients), which had the most significant healthcare needs. The group has seen some of the same patients each year. Medical charts are maintained on each patient, which is different than many medical missions where data and patient information is not maintained for comparison between visits.

“The most impactful memory I have from my time in Guatemala was when we set up a clinic in the Puerto Barrios City Dump,” said Martha Daley, 2020 BSN student who attended the mission in 2019. “I remember as we were driving into the dump, I had tears filling my eyes as I saw more and more garbage piling up on the side of the roads and people rummaging through the items for anything they could salvage. I could not, and sometimes still cannot, believe that there are people in this world that make a living off of working in a dump, and worse, live in a dump. At times, it is hard to believe there are people who do that, and living the life we live, we don’t think twice about where our garbage goes.”

The team has made a commitment to the villagers and work with them to provide access to clean water through water filtration systems and stoves which use less natural resources and are more environmentally friendly. 

Students and faculty raised just about $8,000 before the mission trip, which was used to purchase water filters for 35 families, new stoves for 19 families and much-needed prescription and over-the-counter medications and clinic supplies. The group brought 1,250 pounds of equipment to help support our clinics and our teaching activities at the children’s hospital.

“I was excited to bring this year’s Team back to the Izabal region,” said Lynn Murphy, Assistant Professor at Bellin College. “It is wonderful to see the same patients return to our clinics each year.  We have worked on developing relationships based on caring and trust with the villagers and I can see the improvements in their overall health over the past few years.  It is an experience that really has the ability to change a student’s understanding regarding healthcare disparities within different communities and the impact that poverty can have on their patient’s health.  It is my hope that will be able to apply and utilize these experiences of running these remote clinics in their future careers in health care, increasing their empathy, respect and caring of all patients.”

The experience of going on the Guatemala mission trip stays with students who elect to join the team on the mission.

“The most important reason why I wanted to partake on this mission trip to Guatemala was to gain a better experience of healthcare diversity in a different culture, and help those who cannot afford healthcare for many different reasons, including the high costs and the distance to travel to gain healthcare access,” said Daley.

For more pictures, see the online gallery. See the video on YouTube.

Read more student stories from the mission on the blog.

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Student humbled by once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of Guatemala mission

Past graduates and friends I talked with, before applying to be considered for the Guatemalan mission trip, all said that attending would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. They said I should definitely apply if I found myself being drawn toward serving others in need. What many do not understand is how once-in-a-lifetime it truly was for someone like me. Growing up, opportunities did not present themselves and I have learned through the years that when an opportunity does present itself, to jump in with both feet and embrace the ride. As an older returning student, with three children at home, to fully comprehend and make the decision to go on this mission trip was difficult. However, I learned to embrace the adventure and follow my heart. I chose to go because I knew that an opportunity such as this one may not present itself again in my lifetime. I also wanted to go because I wanted to make a difference and use my nursing skills in a different way. I wanted to see a different perspective of culture and bring something to people that we often take for granted here in Wisconsin.

This experience has forever changed me as a person, wife, mom and friend. I was able to experience life that is very different than ours. I saw how impactful a simple hug, toothbrush, or helping hand can be. I know our help and donation of goods made a huge impact on their lives, but I don’t think they realized how much of an impact they had on ours as well.

We visited the children’s hospital of Guatemala, the only publicly run children’s hospital, where we were able to teach the staff CPR and perform assessments on the patients. I spent some time in the malnutrition unit where one child, who was one of soon-to-be eight, was staying with her mother. This family had little services to provide but yet they were there getting the treatment needed. We visited the orphanage where the children were able to let loose and play some games or color with all of us. They were so excited to see us and play. We went to the village of Baltimore where I was able to gather their history, learning why they are seeking our help or care for themselves or their children. I was able to help teach them about medications or how to care for themselves during their menstrual cycle with the “kits for girls” donated by the Ss. Edward and Isidore Catholic Church’s sewing team.

We visited the village of Rio Salado where I was able to gather heights and weights of the people of the village. This is only a small piece of the information needed to paint a bigger picture of the effects of long-term malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency. I was able to give donated shoes and toys to the families. I also was a part of the distribution of the 35 water filters purchased with the funds donated to the team’s efforts to provide clean water for children and the elderly.

We then took an exciting ride in the back of a truck to the village of Plan Grande. There I saw a lot of dental decay and helped oversee applying fluoride varnish. Many villagers do not have access to clean water so they turn to sugary drinks for hydration since they understand them to be safer options. Villagers also do not fully understand the importance of brushing their teeth and how it could help prevent dental decay, which often leads to significant pain and possible infections. With the help of my friend Daisy the dragon and an extra-large toothbrush, I was able to teach families how to brush their teeth. I also was in charge of applying fluoride at Puerto Barrios dump site, where about 400 people live and work, gathering items to recycle to earn a living.

Many of these families in the dump live on so little. One family that will forever stick with me was a family of five that lives on the dump site and earns $7 per week collecting aluminum cans. Both parents grew up in the dump, and they had their first child together when the mother was only 15 years old. At 19 years old she has three children. It is the mother’s dream that her children will be able to stay in school and earn a good education that will lead to an easier life. It is hard for us to imagine living on so little but this family does and was so thankful and grateful for what we were able to offer them. While there we performed health check-ups for her children and provided much-needed antibiotics, antiparasitics and vitamins. I will forever remember the appreciation they showed us for the basic services we provided.

There is something humbling about the feeling you get when bringing care to others that are less fortunate than yourself and the difference you can make by just being present with them for a moment of time. This was truly the experience of a lifetime and I am deeply moved.  Pictures do not do justice to all that we saw nor do they paint the total picture of what we experienced. As a team, we accomplished so much and are all were truly humbled by this opportunity.

I hope others will want to serve on the Guatemala mission teams at Bellin College, to serve the poorest of the poor and enhance upon the efforts and accomplishments of our past teams.

Woman sits on blanket with three children.

Ashley Wallner, class of 2020, with her daughters.

Ashley Wallner
Bellin College
Senior Nursing Student
(May 2020)

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Bellin College Orthopaedic and Manual Physical Therapy Fellowship transitioning to accreditation by AAOMPT

The Bellin College OMPT Fellowship program will be switching accrediting agencies from the American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education (ABPTRFE) to the American Academy of Orthopaedic and Manual Physical Therapists (AAOMPT) starting in January 2020. Bellin College is joining several other OMPT Fellowships in this endeavor.

The reasons for this include:

  1. As of Jan. 1, 2020, ABPTRFE will implement a policy requiring residency completion and/or OCS acquisition prior to being admitted to Fellowship. We believe this will inhibit enrollment of well- qualified applicants who have not completed these requirements. By switching to the Accreditation Council on Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy Education (ACOMPTE) through AAOMPT, applicants will continue to be considered for admission based on relevant clinical experience and clinical skills within a particular specialty area.
  2. As of Jan. 1, 2020, ABPTRFE will allow mentorship to be provided by physical therapists who are not FAAOMPTs. This standard threatens the rigor and quality of the vital mentorship occurring within OMPT fellowship programs and goes against the quality standards set forth by Bellin College’s OMPT program and IFOMPT/AAOMPT. Furthermore, ABPTRFE will allow 75 hours of live, in-person mentorship vs. the 150 set forth by IFOMPT as the standard.
  3. ABPTRFE continues to place costly, time-consuming, and nonvalued administrative burden on fellowship programs for approval of mentorship sites. We believe that this should be the responsibility of the program director and that approval of mentors vs. sites is more important. While they have engaged in dialogue regarding these concerns, no changes in policy have occurred.

AAOMPT is a member of the International Federation of Orthopaedic Manipulative Physical Therapists (IFOMPT). By successfully completing an AAOMPT-accredited program, students will meet all standards set for by AAOMPT and IFOMPT, which will qualify them to be declared as Fellows of the American Academy of Orthopaedic and Manual Physical Therapists (FAAOMPT).

Our OMPT Program at Bellin College is thankful for the support AAOMPT has provided for programs looking to take an alternative accreditation path besides ABPTRFE.

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