FORT WAYNE, Ind.—Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) and Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre Y Maestra (PUCMM) in the Dominican Republic recently signed a five-year extension to the Memorandum of Understanding initially signed by both institutions in 2011.
The agreement allowed IPFW to create a sustainable healthcare program for the underserved population of Cienfuegos, a small, over-populated area near Santiago. The extended agreement was signed in Cienfuegos by IPFW Chancellor Vicky L. Carwein and her counterpart at PUCMM, Agripino Nunez Collado.
Ten nursing students—six undergraduates and four graduate students—and two previous nurse practitioner students joined four Department of Nursing faculty members—Clinical Assistant Professors Deb Baresic and Jan Neuman, visiting instructor Katrina Kessler, and department Chair and Professor Carol Sternberger—on the trip to Cienfuegos.
The Dental Education Program sent two graduates along with Clinical Associate Professor Nancy Mann as a fluoride team. Not only did they apply fluoride varnish, which protects the teeth from tooth decay, but Mann also lectured and then taught dental students from PUCMM in the clinic for three days.
More than 1,100 patients were seen in the clinic in Cienfuegos; lines often formed down the block from the clinic. Once inside, the IPFW nursing and dental students ran triage under the supervision of faculty. The students also went out into the community to make home visits with medical students from PUCMM.
One of the students commented to Kessler after the home visits that “…she had a new understanding of why they did little to follow medical advice or attempt to care for their health. She had met a mother caring for four children on a 50 peso a month salary. She understood why they sought free medication when they were not sick and why they could not afford clean water.”
Other student comments included, “Taking the trip to Cienfuegos started me on a path of lifelong service to others, not only on a nursing level, but also on a spiritual and personal level ... the experience of working with others in the Dominican Republic taught me more than any classroom experience.” “Working with members of the community of Cienfuegos was amazing; I am in awe of them … I want to start personally giving to my community the way I saw them giving to theirs: men, women, and children giving their time energy and abilities with complete joy and love.”
The students aren’t the only ones who were affected by their trip. Baresic has been the mission leader for three trips to Cienfuegos and says being there has changed her life. “We give a lot when we’re here, but the gifts we receive from the people of Cienfuegos are just as equal: the thanks, the blessings, collaborative relationships with the PUCMM students … I know when I go back every year, I feel like I’m going back to a city I care about and to friends I have made for a lifetime.”