Students offer passport to medical volunteer tourism

By Kendra Jones |

Senior students taking a public relations campaigns class shared their knowledge on medical volunteer tourism as they spoke to York College students and community members on April 21.

Health wagon, a non-profit organization that serves in six counties in southwestern Virginia, focusing on helping those with medical needs, served as a topic for the class and was presented to York College. In the Appalachian Mountains, poverty struck society because of the layoffs from coal mines. This affected the ability for people living in the area to afford medical expenses. Victims of natural disasters and people living in third world countries are also unable to pay medical expenses.

Brenna Davis, a senior public relations major, said that she was influenced to study medical volunteer tourism because she is passionate about volunteering; one day she would love to join the Peace Corps.

Davis spoke about a mobile clinic that visits every couple of months to Virginia and the two women who run it; they grew up and went to medical school together. It is “so important to have those volunteers,” said Davis. She said that there are people working full time and earning minimum wage, but this is not enough to afford medical expenses.

“I hope this makes people realize that there are people in the world that can’t afford medical care; however there are a lot of them in the United States that need care too,” said Taylor Gamber, a senior public relations major.

Those that participate in medical volunteer tourism pay for their own travel, lodging and activity expenses. The time for volunteering ranges from a few days to a few months, depending how much help the organization needs, and medically educated volunteers typically work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. doing medical examinations and prescriptions, while others work with data and organization.

Throughout the students’ presentation of the topic, they reminded the audience that there is more volunteer work than just performing medical procedures.

While medical practitioners provide primary care to patients, anyone can help with “pre-exam interviews, filing, assisting with reports or answering phones,” said the informational pamphlet that the student speakers distributed.

Referring to what Gamber would potentially do to volunteer, she said, “Help day to day—there are a lot of activities you can do without administering medicines and procedures.”Gamber said that she would definitely want to become involved with medical volunteer tourism by scheduling patients’ appointments, organizing paperwork, promoting the organization and completing any public relation assignments.

Medical volunteer tourism benefits people by allowing them to build on to their resume, giving them career insight, helping others in need and giving volunteers a sense of purpose. While collecting these benefits by helping with data entries, cleaning, organizing, doing paperwork or by providing medical attention to patients, if you have an education in medicine, medical volunteer tourism provides “quality and compassionate free healthcare to communities in need,” said Davis.

Local volunteer opportunities will be available on May 5 at Mothers Against Drunk Driving and on July 7 to 8 at the Relay for Life of Hanover.

For more information visit thehealthwagon.org, or email tgarifo@ycp.edu.


Featured image: Tykey Collins, Taylor Gamber, James Arrison (from left to right) presented the informational session on Medical Volunteer Tourism, photo by Kendra Jones.

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