SHS Students Volunteer in Ecuador

More than 20 Students Join Medlife Mission

March 27, 2017

The child couldn’t have been more than nine and looked closer to five. But he had come alone down the mountains of Ecuador where his family lived. A bloody gash was open above his eyes and the volunteer doctors sutured the wound and administered anesthesia with an 18 gauge needle, all while Emily Lisanti, an undergraduate student at Touro College School of Health Sciences, stood close by ready to help.

I couldn’t imagine being a kid and having to go through this alone,” recalled Lisanti, “He was so brave. They don’t take having healthcare for granted and appreciate everything. That really was amazing to me.”

Lisanti, along with 21 other SHS students travelled to rural parts of Ecuador as part of a Medlife student trip in January. As part of the trip, SHS undergrad students, along with 100 other college students, spent a week travelling on bumpy roads to distant parts of Ecuador to ensure that residents received basic medical care.  Each day, students worked with volunteer doctors at a variety of medical booths that provided medical screenings and information to the Quechua people, the indigenous people of South America. SHS students helped the doctors administer tests for high blood pressure and taught individuals how to perform breast exams along with basic lessons in hygiene like hand-washing and tooth-brushing. The most common ailments, Lisanti said, were parasites.

One thing that impressed the Medlife leadership was the amount of students a small school like SHS brought.

“[Medlife] is always so amazed that we get so many to go,” said Lisanti, who is the president of SHS’s Medlife Club. “People assume we’re a much larger school. At SHS it’s intimate and there’s a lot of word-of-mouth. Since we’re a health school, everyone wants to pursue a graduate program, whether PT, OT, or going to medical school. People want to be proactive in their undergraduate career.”

“It’s such an amazing opportunity,” said SHS student Dara Adames who left a career in fashion to become a student at SHS and eventually hopes to attend Touro College’s PA program. “You get more out of it than you give.”

On one of the final days of the program, SHS students helped build a staircase for one of the villages.

“Because the terrain is so mountainous they have a lot of problem with women having miscarriages,” Adames explained.

SHS student Christina Lagudi called the experience “eye-opening.” Lagudi works in a gastroenterology office in New Hyde Park and experienced a culture shock when she returned.

“It’s bizarre how different the health care systems are,” said Lagudi. “In Ecuador, we used baby wipes to sanitize the dental hygiene stations and everyone was so happy to get anything. It made me so grateful for our healthcare.”