TCOM Students Partner with TRHA for Big Bend Border Medical Mission Trip
By Steven Bartolotta and Mallory McMahon
The Texas Rural Health Association chapter at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth spent spring break on their second annual Big Bend medical mission trip to west Texas.
The TRHA student group worked with local rural community leaders, physicians, and churches to make the trip a reality. The goal was for medical students and physicians from TCOM to organize and run free medical clinics in one of the most medically underserved areas in the state.
Their mission was simple, to bring healthcare to west Texas and increase the quality of life for residents. At the same time, the students were given the opportunity to practice clinical skills, patient interviews, physical exams, and diagnostics – all under the watchful eyes of overseeing physicians.
“As a student, I gained an immense amount of confidence in myself as a future healthcare professional on this trip and will be forever grateful to the west Texas community,” said TCOM student Mallory McMahon.
The clinic ran the entire week, except for Thursday, when students went hiking at Big Bend National Park. They held the clinic in the small border towns of Sanderson, Presidio, Terlingua, and Candelaria. In all the clinics covered over 200 miles.
Students triaged patients, conducted patient interviews, performed physical exams, and did diagnostic testing such as HbA1c, Urinalysis, and Ultrasound. Students formed an assessment of the patient’s condition and gave treatment recommendations, which students then presented to the presiding physicians.
Physicians had prescription pads on hand if medication prescriptions or refills were necessary for treatment, and students performed OMT on over half of the patients seen. Overall, over 100 patients were served during the week, and students gained invaluable clinic experience and education.
The towns visited by the group have no local physicians, nurse practitioner or physician assistant to service their area. The closest hospitals are in Odessa (150 miles away), Del Rio (205 miles), El Paso (220 miles), and Chihuahua, Mexico (200 miles). The trip highlighted the rural and remote areas of west Texas, where most residents are uninsured with very little access to health care.
The trip included 12 first-year TCOM students, 11 second-year and one fourth-year student, along with Dr. Lesca Hadley from HSC, Dr. Leslie Wilson from IUWSOM and Ann Smith from TCOM’s ROME program.