Continuity of Care in the DR
By Lauren Cottingham
Lauren is Timmy Global Health’s new Medical Programs Coordinator in the Dominican Republic. As an undergraduate nursing student at Purdue, she was first exposed to Timmy’s programming when she traveled with a Timmy medical team to Quito, Ecuador. Now, years later, she is a full-time Timmy staff member in the field. This blog post shares Lauren’s experience leading her first Timmy medical team—the Wash U Timmy chapter—in May.
Last week, a group of 33 medical professionals and students joined Timmy’s on-the-ground staff for one of our regular medical service trips in Monte Cristi, in the Dominican Republic. As I sit down to reflect upon that trip—my first as a Timmy staff member—I am overcome with an array of emotions. Looking back, I have to say that participating on a trip as a leader is an entirely different experience than participating on one as a student. I can honestly say that I was probably more exhausted after this trip as Timmy’s new Medical Programs Coordinator than any previous trip I have ever participated on.
Despite the exhaustion, I am so thank to have been a part of this amazing team. Not only did I get a chance to meet and work with a great crew of students and medical volunteers, but I also got a chance to better understand Timmy’s impact on the communities we serve—something I don’t think I fully understood before moving to the Dominican Republic. What I discovered is that a lot of Timmy’s work is done (and any MPC’s job starts) after the service teams leave. A prime example of this is found in Timmy’s patient referral system. During this trip, I had the pleasure of interacting with a patient who had benefitted from this system.
Her name is Nacaria. She is a 72-year-old woman who lives in the community of Maguaca, which is about 30 minutes outside of Monte Cristi. Two years ago she came to one of Timmy’s clinics with complaints of headaches and loss of vision. Fortunately, the Wash U medical team that traveled to the DR at that time had brought an Optometry/Ophthalmology team, and Nacaria was referred by one of the doctors—Dr. Ashish Mehta—to get cataract surgery. With aid from Timmy’s patient referral system, she was transported to Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, where she successfully received the surgery.
Last week, during Wash U’s annual service trip to this region, Nacaria returned to clinic. And so had Dr. Mehta! Nacaria was overcome with joy when she recognized him, and expressed how grateful she was for the surgery. She no longer suffers from chronic headaches, and her vision is much improved—which makes daily tasks much easier and more enjoyable to perform. She expressed how happy she was, and was thrilled to talk about her experience with everyone that was willing to listen.
Hearing Nacaria’s story reminded me how important Timmy’s work is, and how it truly does change the quality of life for patients that otherwise lack access to healthcare. In the midst of a hectic and busy medical trip, with little sleep, hot temperatures, and less than ideal clinical set-ups, it can sometimes be hard to see the bigger picture. But Nacaria’s testimony reminded me of the importance of the work that we do. And Nacaria’s is just one story—there are so many more patients, literally thousands each year, who are impacted by the incredible services of Timmy’s medical professionals and students that donate their time and talents, as well as Timmy’s referral system. Looking back at the work we accomplished last week, I am so honored to be a part of this team, and I know that Nacaria’s story is just the first of many that I’ll be experiencing during my time with Timmy.