“She had had at least six [asthma] attacks, but was never diagnosed with asthma or given an inhaler,” says Dr. Carrie Anderson as she retells the story of a 14-year-old girl who came in to clinic that day with her father. “It was unusual, because [kids] are usually with their mothers and he was missing work to be there. I was able to impress upon the importance of inhalers as life-saving emergency medicine for asthma. He was grateful to better understand what had been happening to his daughter.”
Dr. Anderson is a family medicine practitioner with more than 18 years of experience who serves as Associate Director of the Residency Program at Franciscan Health Indianapolis. She has traveled on two Timmy medical service trips to Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic and most recently to Xela, Guatemala. Speaking of her experience in the residency program at Franciscan Health, Dr. Anderson notes the huge increase in desire of medical students to have opportunities to serve in underserved communities both in the U.S. and internationally. “Our goal is to have an ongoing availability of mission trips for our students and guarantee at least one during their residency.”
“The experience [with Timmy] is phenomenal because I get to know the residents in a different way, as colleagues and personally. I get to see them experience things that will help them grow as physicians. It broadens their ability to provide healthcare in a very limited resources setting. When you have to think about things and can’t get studies right away, it pushes your diagnostic skills.”
Dr. Anderson was accompanied by Dr. Stacey Lockard who is in her final year of the residency program. As Dr. Lockard prepared for the trip she visited a travel doctor, practiced her Spanish, read about local diseases, and studied Timmy’s electronic medical record system, TimmyCare. But nothing could have fully prepared her for the impact the patients and rich culture would have on her: “It was so rewarding to know that the work I was doing could prevent or treat all kinds of people from malnourished and parasite-laden children to geriatric diabetics who needed a persistent supply of medication.”
“These [types of] trips not only revitalize my passion for caring for others, but they help to develop compassion for another culture that would be relatively impossible to experience unless [you] visit a country in person,” said Dr. Lockard of the opportunity for residents. Whether it is visiting a women’s textile cooperative taking in the bright, colorful patterns or sipping on homemade hot chocolate while learning the history of the chocolate industry in Guatemala, the opportunities for experiencing the diverse and vibrant culture of the communities are many.
Dr. Anderson’s observations about the 14-year-old patient who walked into her consult room last month clearly convey the heart of Timmy’s mission and the importance of the medical professionals who sacrifice their time to serve: “She had a severe asthma attack [the night before] and probably should have gone to the hospital. I felt like this young girl has her whole life ahead of her and she could have died at home from asthma – this still happens across the world.”