As I boarded the plane in Indianapolis, I couldn’t wait to meet 18 of my Eli Lilly and Company colleagues from across the globe. Our paths soon would connect in the middle of the world, quite literally. We all were headed for Ecuador as part of a Timmy Global Health medical brigade—and a new partnership between Timmy and Lilly, two Indianapolis-based organizations with a shared goal to improve global health.
For me, it was a dream come true.
Since joining Lilly a few years ago, I eagerly awaited the day when I would be eligible to apply for our company’s nearly decade-long Connecting Hearts Abroad volunteer program. Its goal is to get Lilly employees out of the labs and from behind our computers to better understand and contribute to the world around us. I was thrilled to apply and elated when I was selected. So many of my colleagues have described their Connecting Hearts Abroad experience as life-changing. Now, I was about to find out for myself.
As I learned more about Timmy’s work in Ecuador and what I’d be doing to help support its mobile clinics there, I became increasingly excited. But there was some apprehension, too. What would the trip be like? Would I quickly figure out what to do? And how would I communicate without knowing much Spanish at all?
My fears slipped away our first day of clinic in Santo Domingo. Our team arrived at a school—our mobile clinic site for the day. Within 30 minutes, our group—including Lilly volunteers, students from the University of Arizona, physicians from Arizona, and local volunteers—set up the mobile clinic and quickly solved some logistical issues. Within an hour of our arrival, we began seeing patients. This patient-centered teamwork was truly inspiring!
Our team included a number of medical professionals, including Lilly physicians. But I’m not one of them. As a “general skills” volunteer, I helped to support the different areas of the mobile clinic. I took patients’ vitals, including height, weight, temperature, blood pressure and pulse. On more than one occasion, I was humbled to learn that patients were unfamiliar with a thermometer, as I showed them how to hold it under their tongue. I counted pills and filled prescriptions in the pharmacy. I gave fluoride treatments to children and played with them while they waited. I took notes for our team’s doctors during their visits with patients. These interactions were powerful lessons in grace, compassion and humanity.
Each of these assignments taught me more about myself, about the people we cared for, and about how healthcare is delivered in different parts of the world.
For me, the best part was spending time with the people of Ecuador. I loved the interaction with the children—encouraging them to be brave and rewarding their bravery with stickers and balloons fashioned from medical gloves. Kids everywhere love balloons and stickers!
I especially was moved by the courageous conversations between patients and our team’s medical professionals. I heard people’s stories, concerns and fears. And I learned how Timmy and its community health partners are addressing a variety of health conditions in these difficult environments.
During the two-week trip, our volunteer team cared for more than 850 patients in both urban and rural areas of Ecuador. The experience was humbling, eye-opening and, yes, life-changing.
by Molly McCully
Molly McCully is director of public affairs at Eli Lilly and Company. In July 2018, she volunteered with Timmy Global Health in Ecuador through Lilly’s Connecting Hearts Abroad global employee volunteer program. Through its Connecting Hearts Abroad program, Lilly sends employees from its operations worldwide to serve as health volunteers and caregivers in communities with need across the world. This is the first year that Lilly and Timmy have joined forces to offer a Connecting Hearts Abroad service trip in Ecuador for Lilly volunteers.