By Nathan Ramsey, MD
I’ve had the privilege of going on two medical missions to Samoa during my residency at Palmetto Health Richland. The first was after my intern year in July 2009; it changed my life and helped to solidify my chosen career path.
I fell in love with the Samoan people during my first trip, and returned the following year with several people from Palmetto, including emergency nurses and fellow residents.
The trip was made possible by a nondenominational Christian organization in Columbia, SC, called Mission of Hope. The director is a local pastor who grew up in American Samoa, and has been leading well organized and safe medical mission trips for the past 15 years. This time will be my first trip with the University of Texas Southwest Parkland Hospital International Emergency Medicine Fellowship Program.
The medical aspect of the Mission of Hope team is set up like a mobile clinic with a multidisciplinary medical staff. We arrive in a village early in the morning and set up shop in a community building. We are organized into several stations, including triage, medical, wound care, dental, physical therapy, pharmacy, eye glasses, a prayer station, and a children’s program. We usually see the majority of a village, and treat anywhere from 300 to 500 people every day.
Villagers will come to be seen even if they are not sick because they rarely have the opportunity to receive medical care. The majority of what we see is minor, such as runny noses, aches and pains, and skin conditions. We are, however, able to diagnosis treatable chronic conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, start people on medication, and set up local follow-up. Some patients even come in with complicated, unusual, or challenging conditions that require real creativity. The villagers express their appreciation for our hard work with a special ceremony.
Dr. Ramsey graduated from the Palmetto Health emergency medicine residency in 2011. He completed fellowship training in global health at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas this year2013. He is now an attending emergency physician at Palmetto Health in Columbia.