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2011 alumna is 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award winner

Sara Landsee, BSN class of 2011, was selected as the recipient of this year’s Bellin College Distinguished Alumni Award. She was nominated by classmate Jennifer Zernzach, who said of Landsee, “In addition to her lengthy clinical accomplishments, Sara is a kind compassionate nurse who truly cares for her co-workers, patients, and community.”

After graduation, Landsee followed her dreams to Texas, where she was accepted into the emergency department residency program at the Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas. After her time there, she transitioned to a position closer to her home at Texas Health Resources Plano, also working in the emergency department.

She has held various positions during her nursing career. Most recently she seized another opportunity to become a trauma program director at Texas Health Frisco, which was recently built.

“Never did I imagine that I would have the opportunity to be part of a facility from the ground up,” Landsee said. “It has been an unbelievable learning experience, and I feel honored to be part of the leadership team at this facility.”                    

“She has helped shape the trauma care in her community through her outstanding work as a frontline nurse in the ER, trauma coordinator, and now trauma program director,” Zernzach said in her nomination. “As her nursing peer from the 2011 graduating class, I am sincerely impressed and inspired by her accomplishments and continual determination to be the best.”

Landsee may be across the country, but the values she learned at Bellin College have never been far from her mind when assisting others.

“I am forever grateful for the values the Bellin College faculty instilled in me during my time at the college,” Landsee said. “Excellence, Community, Integrity, and Caring remain pillars in my nursing practice. I hope that winning this award will inspire others, especially those at the beginning of their career, to be empowered to make a difference.”

She offered some advice for fellow nursing students and graduates.

“Always be willing to take chances in order to follow your dreams,” she said. “We all know that change is scary, but no one has ever grown without it. Challenge yourself to do better not only for yourself but your patients.  If I wouldn’t have taken a chance by moving across the country at 22 to take my first nursing job, I can’t say I would be where I am at today.”

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Bellin College moves to test-optional school for 2021

Bellin College will be moving to a test-optional admissions model beginning with its fall 2021 freshman class. This means traditional freshman applicants will not be required to submit either ACT or SAT results to be considered for admission to the college.

To better fit the current higher education landscape, Bellin College will allow students to decide to not submit ACT or SAT scores as a part of the admissions review process. This allows the college to utilize a holistic admissions model that gives more ownership to the student in the process of crafting their application to our programs.

We realize that students, more often than not, will still decide to submit their scores for review, and we will continue to review those scores as a part of the admissions process. However, this allows Bellin College to be more accommodating to our students from all backgrounds, especially those that may not have proper access to adequately prepare for a standardized test.

“We do realize that students will take advantage of this option, given standardized testing does not always showcase a student’s true talent,” said Forrest Buck, director of admissions and enrollment management. “The goal is to have students that may have been nervous to apply in the past because of below-average scores, to now be more confident in their decision to apply to Bellin College knowing the scores are no longer a factor.”

The test-optional choice will be available for all undergraduate traditional freshman that would be applying to Bellin College programs starting in the fall 2021 term. Students will still have access to scholarship opportunities but will still want to submit test scores to determine eligibility for additional funds.

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Phenomenology looks at the philosophical side of caring

Bellin College, along with the Bellin Health Foundation, Bellin Health, and The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, hosted the sole Phenomenology and Healthcare International Workshop in the United States. Phenomenology is, according to Oxford Dictionary is “an approach that concentrates on the study of consciousness and the objects of direct experience.”

The workshop is based on a project on how to use phenomenology in qualitative research in healthcare by the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities in England. The project leader, Dr. Dan Zahavi, is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Copenhagen where he directs the Center for Subjectivity Research and is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford where he is working on this study. He has authored and edited 30 books and over 200 articles and book chapters and is a world-renowned expert in phenomenology. He was not in attendance at the workshop in Green Bay.

Dr. Casey Rentmeester, Director of General Education and Associate Professor of Philosophy for Bellin College and has authored a book on the phenomenology of the environment and 18 articles and book chapters. His most recent work focuses on the phenomenology of healthcare. He was integral in securing Green Bay as a location for one of the workshops as he has known one of the researchers, Dr. Anthony Fernandez, since graduate school. The event was held in the Titletown Ditrict at Ariens Hill and Titletown Tech near Lambeau Field in Ashwaubenon.

“I think the workshops went as well as it possibly could have,” he said. “The fact that we had over 80 participants, spanning from providers to professors to students and even patients, come to a workshop on phenomenology, a term that many of them likely did not know before attending, is simply, well, phenomenal. I sit on the Best Patient Experience Committee at the Bellin Health System, and everyone was raving about how excellent it went at our meeting the next day.”

The presenters of the workshop were Dr. Rentmeester, Dr. Fernandez and Dr. Steven Burgess.

Dr. Fernandez is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Kent State University and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Oxford where he is aiding Dr. Dan Zahavi in his research on phenomenology.

Dr. Burgess is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Benedictine University. He has several peer-reviewed publications and has presented his research internationally. He regularly teaches courses in phenomenology.

The event began with a presentation by Dr. Rentmeester, Dr. Fernandez and Dr. Burgess before groups were split off to work in small groups for more targeted discussion sessions at Titletown Tech.

“In the breakout session I facilitated, the faculty were initially carrying the conversation, as might be expected, but the students ended up having some very valuable contributions,” Dr. Burgess said. “On the whole, I thought the workshop attendees offered some truly insightful ideas about the way phenomenology can be applied to medicine.”

Dr. Fernandez was impressed by the workshop attendees, most of which were healthcare professionals from all areas of the industry, or community members involved in advising on patient needs and ideas.

“So many people were willing to share candid stories of their experiences as both health care professionals and as patients,” he said. “Their stories really brought the philosophical concepts to life and demonstrated how phenomenology can help us reflect upon aspects of our experience of illness and disability that we’d normally pass over.”

“Most people do not associate the traditional foci of philosophy with healthcare, aside from some questions of ethics; this workshop did not focus on the standard biomedical ethical questions and instead made use of a field-phenomenology that originated in rather abstract thinking,” Burgess said. “The considerations we discussed: body as object vs. body as lived; the ‘space’ of the hospital room; the unwritten norms guiding healthcare practice; etc., were very concrete and are certainly not ‘side issues,’ but instead essential to providing quality healthcare.”

Phenomenology and philosophy in general isn’t without its challenges and healthcare is no exception.

“A major obstacle to philosophical—and, specifically, phenomenological—applications in healthcare is the inaccessibility of philosophical texts,” Dr. Fernandez said. “The workshop breaks new ground in two ways. First, is distils some of the most useful concepts from phenomenology and makes them accessible to people without a philosophical background. Second, the workshop guides attendees through the process of reflecting on their own experiences in light of these philosophical concepts, providing attendees an opportunity to not only better understand their own experience and the experience of their patients, but also to get a clear grasp of the philosophical concepts by putting them into practice.”

“I think one of the biggest things we all showed genuine interest in was how to understand the patient’s perspective in order to provide patient-centered care,” Dr. Rentmeester said. “In philosophy, phenomenologists have been working on understanding the perspectives of others for over a century now, and it is just fantastic that this work is now bleeding into the healthcare setting, since it is so relevant to providing empathetic care to patients.”

After the breakout sessions at Titletown Tech, the groups reconvened for a wrap-up discussion on what was learned and discovered during those breakouts.

“I really enjoyed our reconvening session where we discussed phenomenologically inspired questions and I think many of those well-positioned at Bellin Health and Bellin College could see the potential for some of these in how routine healthcare can be improved,” Dr. Burgess said. “Some simple questions like ‘what do you fear most with this procedure/plan of treatment?’ or ‘what do you hope to get out of your experience?’ can really impact patient experience and more importantly quality of care. Some promising ideas that were floated were to include such questions in Vitals Procedure with every patient; to offer training programs for nurses and doctors to become more aware of their patients as whole persons; to screen prospective employees during interviews for aptitude with phenomenological care.”

By all accounts, the workshop was a success to those involved.

“I think that the workshop showed that dialogue between healthcare professionals and academic philosophers is incredibly productive and enlightening for everyone involved,” Dr. Fernandez said. “Talking through concrete examples with healthcare professionals not only brings philosophical concepts to life. These conversations often challenge philosophical assumptions about the nature of embodiment and illness, pushing philosophers to rethink their own assumptions.”

“I think there is a tremendous amount of room for growth in this field, and this workshop represents just the beginning,” Dr. Burgess said.

One question remains, where does Bellin College go from here with phenomenology?

“For Bellin College, I think it would be great if a full course could be developed on phenomenology of medicine and illness,” Dr. Fernandez said. “While a one-off workshop is a great introduction to the value of phenomenology for healthcare, a full semester of this kind of content and discussions can go a long way toward influencing long-term healthcare practice.”

Dr. Rentmeester said the team will be looking to hold a follow-up to this workshop, possibly in 2021.

“The fact that Bellin College and Bellin Health is working closely with top-notch researchers at the University of Oxford really speaks to our dedication to our vision as a college, which is to be the best health sciences college in the state of Wisconsin, and Bellin Health’s dedication to providing the best possible experience for patients,” Dr. Rentmeester said.

Other locations of workshops were University of Oxford in Oxford, United Kingdom; University of Iceland in Reykjavik, Iceland; Aarhus University in Aarhus, Denmark; and University of Manitoba in Manitoba, Canada.

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Bellin College Golf Classic canceled due to pandemic

Bellin College 19th Annual Golf Classic logoThe 20th annual Bellin College Golf Classic set for June 22, 2020, at Oneida Golf & Country Club was another side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. The golf committee made the difficult decision to cancel the event because of the current safer at home order and not being able to ensure a top-notch golf outing for participants.

“While we are disappointed that we will not be able to hold the 20th annual Bellin College Golf Classic, it is the right choice to make,” said Thomas Shefchik, Vice President of Advancement for the college. “As a college preparing future healthcare professionals we need to set the example and ensure we are doing our part to keep our event attendees and in turn our community safe.”

The annual event is a main fundraiser for the college. Each year, a different area of need is identified as a need for funding. This year the event was set to raise money towards the purchase of an array of educational models to be used by all Bellin College students in anatomy and physiology courses.

“Many of the attendees have participated in this event year after year and they understand the important role the funds raised have on the quality of the education we provide at Bellin College,” Shefchik said. “Even though the event is canceled for 2020, many of the attendees have decided to make a gift of their event fees and sponsorships because of their dedication to our students.  We are extremely thankful for their support.”

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HSRC donates PPE, weathers new normal

One of the areas affected by the COVID-19 pandemic is the Health Sciences Resource Center at the college. Located in the lower level of the building, the HSRC is the resource all students utilize to practice skills they will need when they enter the work force.

Shortly after the need for Personal Protectice Equipment, or PPE as we’ve all learned, arose, the HSRC staff and Bellin College went through supplies and were able to donate to Bellin Health. Staff gathered supplies amounting to 640 masks, 172 isolation gowns and 15 surgical gowns to give to the health system to help in the fight against COVID-19.

Since the HSRC is one of the most hands-on areas of the college, it has been paramount to have a plan in place once students are able to return to campus. This summer, only the year-round Bachelor of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography students will be allowed to practice skills.

“We are looking forward to the students return, it just may be a little different than what we have done in the past,” said Bonnie Luebke, Health Science Resource Center Director and Simulation Coordinator.

While students and staff have largely been off campus, the HSRC staff cleaned and disinfected all areas and supplies that are used in simulation or practice labs.

Along with planning and prepping for the return of students, they hosted and taught a skills refresher course for Bellin Clinic staff, LPNs and medical assistants.

“We had 40 staff members go through multiple stations over 2 days,” Luebke said. “This gave the clinic staff time to practice skills that they don’t do at the clinic in order to prepare them for assisting at the hospital if needed especially if a surge occurs.”

HSRC Coordinators Bruce Chinen and Sarah Johnson have assisted faculty with nursing classes as well. They have each taken on a group of students to conduct online simulations with to replace vital clinical time using the i-Human simulation program.

When students are back on campus, the HSRC staff has planned and prepared for cleaning and disinfecting and social distancing measures

“We have determined some limitations on number of students allowed in the learning spaces in the HSRC, adding additional rooms or additional lab sections,” Luebke said. “Students will need to follow the rules set forth by Student Services department.” 

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Bellin College pivots to drive-in graduation

One of the bright spots during the pandemic for the college has been able to provide the 134 graduating seniors with a creative send-off.

After graduation had to be postponed in April, staff pondered how to give seniors that proper ending that all students strive to have. With largely every graduation canceled across the country it wouldn’t be surprising if Bellin College needed to do the same.

With some restrictions lifted for drive-in theaters, Bellin College Vice President of Strategic Engagement and Public Relations Matt Rentmeester along with other colleagues started wondering if a drive-in graduation could be pulled off.

“We wanted to make something special for our students, and we brainstormed a little bit, myself and a few of my colleagues, and we came up with a drive-in movie theater option, and it’s been well-received by a lot of our 134 graduates,” Rentmeester said.

With a little over a week to plan the event, preparations were made the week leading up to the May 16, 2020, ceremony at Field of Scenes Drive-in in Freedom, with a little help from vendors and staff.

Students and family descended to the drive-in with decked-out vehicles in their graduation caps and gowns ready to party like we’re living in a pandemic. The ceremony was broadcast over the radio to those in their vehicles.

BSN graduate Tori Hipke was happy to have an actual ceremony.

“Like every graduate, you’re always looking to cross the stage and receive your diploma with family and friends, but this is really unique what Bellin College has done for us,” she said.

President and CEO of the college, Dr. Connie Boerst, spoke as well as three of the four student class speakers. A virtual video ceremony with messages from the featured speaker Katherine Reinke, President and CEO of Bellin Health Chris Woleske, and Bellin College chairman Mike Van Asten, along with all four student speakers is being produced and will be distributed to graduates and their families.

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COVID-19 impacted Bellin College students and alums

The impact of COVID-19 was felt throughout Bellin College and also our alums.

Sierra Bates, 2020

Recent graduate Sierra Bates was working in the Intensive Care Unit at HSHS St. Vincent Hospital during the last several months. She offers a little bit of what it is like working during the COVID-19 situation.

“I am trying to work extra hours as I am using my work experience for clinical,” Bates said. “I am also required to pick up extra on call shifts for our COVID-19 ICU. We wear hair covers, face shields, and surgical masks 24/7 on the floor. We wear our N95s for all vented patients, patients with trachs, CPAP, BIPAP, and any aerosolizing procedures. We also get temperature checked at the door when we come in and interviewed about symptoms. I have been given a mask to wear in and out of work in addition to my PPE on the floor.”  

“Studying isn’t great as I am very distracted at home,” Bates said. “I miss studying at school!” 

Many students are just looking forward to being back on campus and later lending a hand to those already on the frontlines of the pandemic.

“It’s definitely been tough being away from my friends and Bellin College family,” said Lauren Harvey, 2021 BSN student. “Learning online just isn’t the same as being on campus.  However, you simply have to adjust and make the best of a tough situation. With the recorded lectures up on my TV, it’s just like being in class minus the professor plus a couch. I hope and can’t wait to be back in lecture for my senior year this fall. That puts me one step closer to graduation and one step closer to joining the profession that’s so bravely on the frontlines of this battle we’re facing.”        

Capt. Jessica Feda, left, and John Wegh on deployment.

Our nursing program isn’t the only one affected. The doctor of science in physical therapy program and physical therapy fellowship has also seen changes.

Many of our fellows-in-training have been laid off or furloughed, see patients via telehealth, or are providing services beyond PT within their health systems,” said Mark Shepherd, Orthopaedic and Manual Physical Therapy Fellowship Program Director. “The outpatient physical therapy world has been really effected. The upside, though, is our fellowship program is hybrid — meaning all of our didactic content was already offered via online learning.  We excel in this offering as we have been doing this for over 10 years now with fellowship training so we haven’t skipped a beat in any of our didactic course offerings.”

Physical therapy fellowship student, Capt. Jessica Feda, in the National Health Service Corps and was deployed to the frontlines of care. She was assisting with screening and treatment of patients with COVID-19. These professionals are learning the best practices in the rehabilitation of the patients who may have ICU-acquired weakness, frailty and pulmonary function that can impact outcomes.

Kelsey Tavs, 2018

Bellin College alumna Kelsey Tavs, BSN class of 2018, is an RN at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton working to care for COVID-19 patients.

“Everything you see hyped up on social media — the personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing, visitor restrictions, fear of infecting your own family members, and nurses uniting together — has a different kind of meaning when you are the one in the room providing care for those in the fight against this virus,” Tavs said.

“COVID-19 has even more so ignited my passion and pride for the nursing profession,” Tavs said. “The distinct characteristics of a nurse have been highlighted tremendously these past few weeks — intelligence, a caring and compassionate heart, adaptability, resilience and even our entertaining sense of humor. When some are told to stay in their home, nurses are the ones running full force toward the action.”

For students who are also spouses and parents, it has also been a unique experience.

Ashley Wallner’s daughters helped decorate their front door in support of healthcare and frontline workers.

Ashley Wallner, BSN 2020, has had to juggle being a teacher to her fourth- and first-graders, studying online as a nursing student and working at the hospital, which she was called off from which gave her more time to spend with her children.

“Transforming to an exclusively online format has been an adjustment,” Wallner said. “It is hard to wake up and feel motivated to sit down and listen to lectures via a computer screen, study for exams, or be able to concentrate with children also home.”

“Many of us have looked forward to the moment of walking across the stage, being handed our diplomas, and celebrating that moment with our families,” she said. “For me, it was something that I needed as it would be a memory to tie everything together for my children. They see every day how hard I work and study, but it was the memory of celebrating with them that is the hardest part to get past.”

Lindsey Semler, BSN class of 2020, worked as a CNA at Bellin Hospital during her last semester at Bellin College.

“It is easy to say that this is not how I envisioned my last semester of nursing school,” she said. “If this situation has taught me anything, it is the importance of being flexible and adaptable as a nurse. With classes being switched to online and the college closing, my friends and I have been able to have study sessions and work on group projects through virtual video chats. I, also, work as a CNA at Bellin Hospital and have worked on the COVID unit several times. Again, this has put me outside of my normal routine, but it has strengthened my passion to be a nurse. This is what I have been preparing for in all my education. There’s no denying these will be unforgotten times, but the lessons and growth occurring from it is what binds us all.”

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Educating future healthcare workers while managing a pandemic

Faculty and staff were forced into a new way of working in March when the safer-at-home order was enacted by Gov. Tony Evers. With Bellin College being deemed an essential business, employees were able to access the building to facilitate working from home and conducting online courses.

All spring events at the college were canceled due to COVID-19, including all outside recruiting and events, staff development day, Campus Preview Day and all Hands On Healthcare events on campus and mobile events.

Faculty who were used to teaching classes face-to-face had to transition to holding classes virtually and also juggling their own family’s needs.

The nursing instructors had some unique challenges when scheduling virtual classes.

“When the decision was made for classes to be put online, many students, since they are nursing students, scheduled themselves to work to help with the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Heidi Monroe, assistant professor of nursing. “This made it difficult to schedule “live” online classes. To handle this situation, I had emailed all the students in my courses two dates that I expected them to attend a ‘live’ class. The dates and times were those when we would have had class.” 

Often, just the challenge of moving instruction online was a challenge.

“The biggest impacts of the COVID-19 has been adapting the course work to an online format, staying connected with the students, finding ways to supplement clinical content and trying to juggle work, helping my kids with their virtual learning, and family life,” said Andra Sartorelli, radiologic sciences instructor and clinical coordinator. “My new office is either on the kitchen table or in the basement area as my husband is also working from home and has a lot of conferences calls,” Sartorelli said. “I guess in the grand scheme of things, it is a small price to pay to stay healthy.” 

Students in the diagnostic medical sonography program were unable to come to campus to use the scanning equipment, which is a huge way for them to learn and be comfortable with the equipment and scanning a human body.

“Our students will be making up the clinical hours in the summer semester,” said Amanda Hogan, diagnostic medical sonography program director and instructor. “All lectures are held live online for my classes and recorded for Stacey May’s.” 

Adapting and learning new techniques was also something instructors faced and led to some different participants in class.

“It forced me to learn how to use Canvas conferences and to come up with some creative ways to conduct class,” Monroe said. “Students really seemed to like the live online class and commented that they preferred it to just watching prerecorded lectures. Also, several students who didn’t typically answer questions in the face-to-face class did answer questions online either verbally or via the chat option.”

“I have been using video conferences with the students to try to stay connected as email is not always the best method of communication.  Thank goodness for technology,” Sartorelli said.

There has also been some positives to come out of the pandemic changes.

“One of the biggest positives is that everyone is now aware of, is not taking face-to-face time for granted or the technology that is available to use at the college,” Hogan said. “We have so many wonderful resources in the sonography lab that we take for granted every day. I look forward to the days I can talk in the hallways and see everyone’s smiling faces.”

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Bellin College radiation therapy program lands Black Tie and Blue Jean for 2021

Bellin College Radiation Therapy Program Director Amy Riemer oversees a patient.

Beginning in fall 2020, Bellin College will begin offering a three-year Bachelor of Science in Radiation Therapy degree. The program, fully accredited through the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), aims to give graduates of the program the skills and confidence necessary to be a leader in the field.

“The radiation therapy program perfectly aligns with our current medical imaging programs,” said Dr. Mark Bake, Dean of Allied Health Sciences at Bellin College. “The unique three-year bachelor curriculum focuses on the importance of patient care and the continuous technological advancements in the profession. We are excited to be bringing this high-demand program to the Northeast Wisconsin area.”

Students enrolled in the program will be prepared through a combination of state-of-the-art classroom education, clinical experience and laboratory practice. Graduates will be eligible to take the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) certification exam. The final year of the program includes a full-time clinical internship which will provide the real-life, hands-on experience needed to be successful as a radiation therapist.

Each year, the Bellin Health Foundation hosts Black Tie & Blue Jean Extravaganza. This year’s event has been postponed because of COVID-19, but the proceeds  from 2020 will go toward purchasing a linear accelerator simulator for use in the radiation therapy bachelor’s degree program. Students will operate the equipment they will use to treat oncology patients — using the actual controls to run the accelerator and observing the beam interacting inside the body. By investing in a simulator, Bellin College will be preparing students for success while helping to improve outcomes for cancer patients everywhere.

“The Bellin Health Foundation, along with our volunteers, has a long history of providing financial support for Bellin College,” said Steve Maricque, President of the Bellin Health Foundation. “We respect and continue that tradition whenever we recognize a need that fits with our mission.  We are honored to help make this technology need a reality for our future students and caregivers.”

The Bellin Health Foundation supports the programs and services of Bellin Health and its associated entities by providing financial support made possible through philanthropy.

“The launch of the Bachelor of Science in Radiation Therapy aligns with the mission and vision of Bellin College,” said President and CEO Connie Boerst. “We are experts at educating healthcare professionals and this unique offering is in high demand in healthcare today. Students will walk away with an outstanding education and will be leaders in the profession. We continue to expand partnerships at the local and state level and are excited to engage in this new endeavor.

The program is unlike any offered in Northeastern Wisconsin. That uniqueness will give students another option when looking for a career.

“Our hope is that the program has a successful implementation and continues to grow and be recognized throughout the nation as the ‘gold standard’ for education and preparation of future caregivers,” Maricque said. “We will be proud in knowing that we contributed to a program that truly will make a difference for those in our community that will utilize the service in the future and improve the quality of patient care and outcomes.”

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Student exceeds expectations on mission trip to Guatemala

Max Soda demonstrates CPR on a manikin to villagers while in Guatemala.

Bellin College students traveled on a medical mission with Mission El Faro to the Izabal region of Guatemala on the East Coast in January. One of the 13 students in tow for the trip stood out to Lynn Murphy, Assistant Professor at Bellin College and organizer of the annual trip. That being Max Soda, class of 2020.

Before heading on the trip, Soda reached out to his communities in Princeton and Montello, Wisconsin, to acquire supplies and donations for the trip. Singlehandedly he gathered “a massive amount of medical supplies, monetary donations of about $5,000 and a small mountain of shoes for the villagers living in Baltimore (the Queche Mayan Village), Rio Salado, Plan Grande Quehueche, and for those living in and around the city dump of Puerto Barrios,” Murphy said. “Max surpassed all of my expectations regarding his ability to reach out to his community to tell the story of the needs of the people of the east coast of Guatemala.” 

The annual Bellin College Mission Trip each year travels to Guatemala to bring needed medical supplies, stoves and water filters and they also perform checkups of the residents. This year they provided water filters for 35 families, new stoves for 19 families. The group brought 1,250 pounds of equipment to help support our clinics and teaching activities at the children’s hospital.

“With Max, his selflessness goes a long way,” Murphy said. “He consistently shows a genuine concern for the well-being of others and puts his own needs last. People notice this, and appreciate the rarity of such a quality. He has the ability to easily develop therapeutic relationships with people.  This was easily demonstrated by those who supported him and our Mission efforts, but also as he worked with the people of Guatemala in their home villages.”

“I wanted to go to Guatemala on the mission trip for many reasons,” Soda said. “I had never been out of the country and I thought this would be a great way to see more of the world. I had heard about the great need these villagers have, most lacking basic necessities. I found it shocking people can live in such harsh conditions in our day and age, and only a couple thousand miles away.”

Soda’s collections in the towns as small as Princeton and Montello are, populations of about 2,700 combined, really stood out to Murphy.

“I think Max’s collections are a true testament of how well connected the communities of Montello and Princeton really are,” Murphy said. “That they would be willing to help our Bellin College Guatemala Mission Team in such a dramatic way.”

“While we have our class periods together throughout the fall semester, learning the about the culture of Guatemalan people we will serve, most students are still unsure of all of the services which our clinics will provide,” she said. “However, Max excelled in the area of telling the story of need for water filters, stoves that vent smoke out of huts, anti-parasite medications, vitamins, shoes and the list goes on.”

Student takes blood pressure of resident in Guatemala.

Max Soda takes the blood pressure of a resident.

“I learned much from this experience, it was very eye opening to see the joy that the people expressed when we cared for them and provided for them,” said Soda. “Something so simple that often we do not see with our patients that we care for back home. I will certainly consider participating in more mission work in my future!”

The team traveling in January 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.

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