CHARLESTON, S.C. (courtesy charlestonsouthern.edu) — In mid August eight second-year physician assistant (PA) students and two faculty members from Charleston Southern University, along with four members of nonprofit Sowers of the Kingdom, traveled to the Dominican Republic to provide medical care and food to more than 800 patients. The weeklong medical mission trip was an option for PA students, who only receive two breaks in an incredibly challenging 12-month clinical phase of their final program year.
With the support of the CSU Global Education Committee, the PA programand Sowers of the Kingdom arranged the trip in partnership with multiple churches, missionaries, community leaders and Habitat for Humanity.
PA student Kristy Gonzalez said this experience was one where she truly felt like a medical provider. “I was finally doing what I came to PA school to do. I have a huge heart for mission work and want to continue to have a career that incorporates mission work into my practice…this trip confirmed God’s calling on my life, and I want to continue to follow where he is leading me—I hope that is more mission work in the DR.”
Brianna Blanton, another PA student, added that every moment of her experience in the Dominican weighed heavily on her heart—specifically one family riddled with health issues and living in poverty. She noted without a local pastor and church, that family probably wouldn’t survive. She fondly remembers one young man in the family. “Despite all this, Alexander smiled the entire time we were visiting. He is truly a light, and I am blessed to have met him. We brought them all food and medicine, but I couldn’t help but break down when we prayed together. I think about this family daily, and I pray they are doing well. I cannot wait to go back one day and see them again.”
The team rallied to provide medical services and meet basic needs in the communities of Come Pan, Sanchez, Las Terrenas and Agua Sabrosa. PA program faculty Scott Wade and Dr. Skylar Stewart-Clark were joined by students Beau Bachman, Ashley Black, Brianna Blanton, Megan Christian, Halie Curry, Gabriela Garza, Kristy Gonzalez and Jessica Robinson.
Students compared the medical needs they experienced to those of rural America. “I think there is a much broader need for healthcare in the Dominican Republic; however, there were a number of patients that reminded me of some of the pediatric patients that I saw at Fetter Health Care. So, I know that the needs still exist here, even if not to the extent that there is in the DR,” Beau Bachman said.
This trip was a first for some, and for others, a continuation of mission work. Blanton shared what she has seen of healthcare in countries like Togo and DR. “While these countries are vastly different from the US, it is important to note that there are areas in SC and the US that have major health disparities. Many rural areas have little access to healthcare and have very little education in regards to health and sanitation. I think it is so important to focus on these areas in SC and the US along with areas outside of the US. I think the major difference would be that many countries outside of the US have little access to clean water which contributes to many of their disparities. The world could always use more of Jesus, and I hope to continue spreading His love not only in SC, but around the world as well.”
PA program faculty and staff are hopeful that providing students an opportunity to serve on the mission field as students will encourage them to continue to be missional as practicing clinicians after graduation.
Scott Wade PA-C, director of didactic education for CSU’s PA program, said, “As Jesus taught in Mark 4, the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that although the smallest of seeds when planted grows to become the largest of all garden plants. It is our hope and prayer that planting this mustard seed of missional service will inspire students to continue to share God’s love through medical ministry and to bless the world through their learning, leading and serving.”