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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Global Medical Brigades makes medicine accessible

When senior human development major Zobeyda Otero read about Global Medical Brigades in The Aggie, she saw an opportunity to improve the lives of people around the world, like those who live in her parents’ homeland of Honduras.

“It was a way of giving back. But it has grown into something far beyond that,” said Otero, now secretary for the UC Davis chapter of Global Medical Brigades.

Global Medical Brigades is a non-profit organization that provides mobile medical relief as well as sustainable development to communities in Ghana, Panama and Honduras. The organization fundraises year-round for an annual one-week “brigade,” or trip to set up a mobile clinic, in addition to recruiting health professionals to attend the trip.

Donations can be made via the Global Medical Brigades website, ucdgb.org/blog.

The Global Medical Brigade works with sister organizations, including the Architecture, Water, Environmental, Business, Law, Public Health and Dental Brigades, to bring a multitude of resources to communities that are in need of necessities such as running water, durable housing and medical care. UC Davis is one of the few schools to have all eight sectors.

Chapter president and senior psychology major Jessica Jaswal said that the best thing about Global Medical Brigades is its dedication to ensuring that people who are in need receive proper medical care.

“No patient is turned away. If we can’t treat them, we refer them to a place where they can receive the care that is needed. And afterwards, we follow up with them,” Jaswal said.

Because the services offered to communities in need come at no cost to the receivers, the organization does immense fundraising in preparation for the yearly brigade. In addition to the $10,000 needed for medical supplies, each individual is expected to raise roughly $1,400 to cover personal expenses.

“It’s a lot, but it you make the effort, we’ll be willing to meet you halfway. We’ve never had someone not be able to go due to finances,” Jaswal said.

Neurobiology, physiology and behavior major and UC Global Medical Brigades PR representative Sam Gamsky said that the Medical sector of Global Brigades is crucial in tracking the improvement of a community.

“Each medical clinic is an important indicator in how much progress has been made. For example, if we hand out less parasite medication the year following a brigade, we can tell that health care has improved, as well as water and food safety,” Gamsky said.

The mobile medical clinics are usually positioned in an easily accessible location within a community; however, the volunteers are never exactly positive where the clinic will be until they arrive.

“Our last community was set up in a chief’s palace. We never know where it’s going to be, but it’s important that it is in a place that can be reached by many people. It could be in a tent or on someone’s patio or in a palace. Sometimes we improvise. That’s what makes it so cool,” Jaswal said.

The brigades, while short, set the foundation for permanent development in global communities. Because Global Medical Brigades is widespread, a community that is designated to receive services from the organization will have a brigade visit every few months. In addition, a member of the community is selected and trained to be a Community Health Worker. This person serves as a medical liaison, keeping track of medical illnesses, births and deaths, and will contact Global Medical Brigades in the case of emergencies or questions.

“With each brigade, there’s an education component. We’re not just dropping off meds. We teach people about essential health factors, such as hygiene, stretching and water purification,” Otero said.

There are information sessions this coming Fall Quarter for those looking to get involved with the UC Davis chapter of Global Medical Brigades. Current members emphasize that all are welcome, despite their different majors and career interests.

“People have gotten involved that have nothing to do with medicine. We’ve had everything from English to philosophy to art majors. It’s truly priceless to know that you’re making a difference, and seeing a smile on a kid’s face. Despite having different backgrounds, we have the same core values. We want security, shelter and good health. These are basic human rights,” Jaswal said.

In agreement, Gamsky said that his fulfillment from the organization stems from seeing in person the results of his contributions.

“It’s really easy to donate money. It’s much more personal to donate your time,” Gamsky said.

To find out more about Global Medical Brigades, visit ucdgb.org/blog.

“College is all about finding yourself. This is a great segue into that,” Jaswal said.

KELSEY SMOOT can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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