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Mission to Honduras

Published on 08 April 2015

"It’s the last time you’ll see civilization for a while.”

St. Louis College of Pharmacy students Aimee Jose, Matt McKenzie, and Sarah Pollmann had just landed in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, and were about to make the four-hour bus trip east to Catacamas, Honduras, when they received that warning. The students were about to spend a week working at Hospital Santo Hermano Pedro on a voluntary mission with 22 other health care professionals under the leadership of Mario Castro, M.D., the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine. Castro, who helped design the hospital, brings a group of volunteers to Honduras every year. This is the first time St. Louis College of Pharmacy students were invited on the trip. Every member of Castro’s team brought two pieces of luggage with them, one for themselves and another filled with 50 pounds of medication. The three STLCOP students would be in charge of setting up and running a pharmacy in the hospital.

“We arrived at the pharmacy, and it was a room with empty shelves,” says P1 student Sarah Pollmann.

The team quickly filled those shelves with all of the medication and supplies needed for the week. The hospital operates year-round, but for five weeks a year, health care professionals from America come and operate a free clinic.

“The hospital pharmacy is very limited on what they receive, and patients are extremely limited on payment,” says P2 student Matt McKenzie. “Everything was free at our pharmacy.”

In Honduras, two students spent the day in the pharmacy and the third would go on rounds with physicians, nurses, and therapists. Many of the patients at the hospital suffered from asthma and had never used an inhaler before. 

“We were working with a communication barrier because we were not fluent in Spanish, and many of the patients are illiterate, so written instructions were no good,” Pollmann says.

By the end of the week, the group had distributed all of the medication they had brought with them. Patients left with a supply that would last several months or up to a year in some cases. They also received a refill prescription.

“They were so grateful,” says P2 student Aimee Jose. “You could see it in the face of every patient.”

STLCOP students were invited to go on the mission trip after McKenzie spent last summer working with Castro as part of the TL1 Summer Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Clinical Research Training Program at Washington University. The program provides career development for medical, pharmacy, and allied health care students through coursework, mentored training, and research. The College’s location in a world-class biomedical and patient-care center provides students with collaborative education, research, and practice programs such as this one with all of our neighboring institutions. For more information, visit here

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