TCOM students host a successful medical mission trip along the border in Big Bend

Trha Students GroupThe Texas Rural Health Association chapter at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth partnered with the Office of Rural Medical Education to run free medical clinics in one of the most medically unserved areas in the state. The TRHA student leaders from the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine worked with rural community leaders and local churches to make the trip a reality.

“The experiences that students get on this trip are unique,” said Afra Fathima, a TCOM second-year student and TRHA Vice President. “By visiting the cities and meeting the patients firsthand, we’re able to better understand disparities in health care and the barriers that many communities, especially border communities, face in Texas.”

Students got experience ranging from patient interviewing to learning osteopathic manipulative medicine and physical therapy techniques. They were able to practice their developing skills by performing ultrasounds using Welch Allyn diagnostic instruments while refining physical exam skills and performing ear cleanings, diabetic foot checks, and basic vision screening.

They also learned how to adapt to limited resources in a remote (outdoor) setting. Students were faced with language barriers forcing them to practice their Medical Spanish while maintaining attentive professional interactions.

“Considering that most of the sites are over two hours from the nearest medical care and that most of the residents of these areas have limited ability to travel, the care that these trips provide is very significant,” said Logan Heckart, a TCOM second-year student, and TRHA Treasurer. “For some patients, it is the only time of year they interact with a healthcare professional. It provides a chance to do early screening for chronic illnesses and do lifestyle counseling to help the communities maintain their health, thus having fewer medical crises and delaying the progression of the chronic illnesses in their populations.”

The clinic ran the entire week in the small border towns of Van Horn, Sanderson, Terlingua and Candelaria. In all, the clinics cover over 200 miles. The towns visited by the group have no local physicians, nurse practitioners or physician assistants to provide service to their area. The nearest limited-scope hospitals are in Fort Stockton or Alpine, with full services hospitals in the Odessa/Midland or El Paso areas.Trha Student Treatment

The team saw 79 patients at four different clinic sites. There were 18 students from TCOM, one HSC physical therapy student, and four from Midland College who were part of the Primary Care Pathway Program.

The ROME program has seen the number of trips grow since its inception a few years ago.

“ROME goes on these trips to these communities about three times a year now, which is great for improved continuity of care,” said Isabella Moon, a TCOM second-year student and ROME student clinic coordinator. “For the communities living in Texas, our clinics are often the closest and easiest access for basic health care needs. For students, they can interact with real patients, and through this experience, gain a lot of confidence by going through a full patient encounter on their own prior to their third year. HSC students are also able to follow many of the same patients throughout the year if they attend all of the trips because we have many patients who return.”

The trip also included TCOM faculty members Dr. Maria Crompton and Malinda Hansen, Dr. Leslie Allsopp from SaferCare Texas, and Ann Smith from the ROME program.

This year, a new facet was the whole health emphasis on lifestyle medicine led by third-year resident Dr. Alley Goyer. Students helped patients complete lifestyle health surveys and then were able to advise patients on ways to maintain their health in a limited environment. Patients received additional resources in both Spanish and English. The goal is to follow up with these patients on the next medical mission trip, scheduled for July 2023.

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