JOPLIN, Mo. — For the past four years, Pittsburg State University professor Dr. Mandy Peak has found herself traveling with a small group of undergraduate students halfway across the globe to help the lives of people in need.
In 2010, it was the small Central America country of Belize. In 2011 and 2013, she touched down and helped in Peru. She found herself in Romania in 2012. In 2014, her group will return to Peru for 10 days to administer dental and health services inside a makeshift clinic.
The annual trips have put students face-to-face with 2,267 patients in these underserved countries. The students assist professionals with medical evaluations, triage and basic dentistry throughout during their stays.
While this program is intended for students aiming to enter the medical or dental fields, many students find themselves interacting for the first time with real people, in real situations. Despite the difficulties, Peak said that the enthusiasm for this program by the students and administrators have been incredible.
“This is their first huge cultural experience and it opens their eyes,” Peak said. “These are the students that are used to whipping out their cell phones and texting their friends when they need something. Some of these places we go to do not have electricity or they are eating their lunches off floors. The students have to work through interpreters or poor working conditions to get a patient help, but they are dedicated to getting them the help they need.”
That dedication is something that Peak is very familiar with.
The program involves a lot of planning and organization that has continued to evolve since its first year. Part of it is assisting young students with the basics, such as obtaining a passport. The other part is dealing with the conditions of a third-world country. Due to those conditions, Peak often travels abroad with sheets, clothespins and rope to assist in makeshift privacy areas for the patients they will see.