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Carson-Newman students to serve on University’s latest Haiti medical mission trip

Nursing student Mollie Meneley works with other Carson-Newman students during a past medical mission trip to Haiti. This year marks the University’s seventh mission trip to the country.

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(April 23, 2015)— Nearly 20 Carson-Newman University students will go on a medical mission trip to Haiti to serve the underprivileged from May 8 to May 15. This marks the school’s seventh mission trip to Haiti.

Students on the trip will run medical clinics in four churches, a school and even a prison in Port au Prince. Associate Professor of Nursing and trip organizer Sue McBee says the mission trip changes students’ perception of the world.

“Many of our students don’t see the world outside of their own little communities. If they go out of the country, it’s probably sandy beaches, ritzy hotels and good food,” McBee says. “But they don’t see the culture of poverty and the vulnerable populations. They get a small piece of that in our nursing program locally at places like KARM, but that is a few hours of a clinical day. They never see the human condition that everybody needs to understand is out there.”

McBee says she strategically gives students clinical experience opportunities, which helps them gain confidence as they serve. Some advanced students even see their own patients.

“We want to see everybody we can, so we’ve got to use some of these students to do assessments and then that information goes to the nurse practitioner so they can actually do the treatment,” McBee says. “They get a lot of experience that’s very amenable to assessment skills, learning more about medication and the cultural aspects they learn are phenomenal.”

Junior pre-med student Kara Cabbage has been to Haiti with the group twice and will return this May. She says the clinical experience and communication skills she has gained on these trips are unparalleled.

“These trips help me to see what patient-physician interaction is like,” Cabbage says. “Just learning how to connect and interact with people who are quite different than I am is huge, and I feel like I’ve grown in that area. It definitely takes you out of your comfort zone because it’s unlike everything we have here.”

McBee says serving the underprivileged is vital whether at home or in the developing world, but serving in a country with such destitution and corruption is a humbling experience.

“I know the first time that I saw the ultimate poverty; I didn’t know how to function,” McBee said. “I came home and thought, ‘how do I sleep in a bed when I’ve been with families who sleep on the ground?’”

Students who take the trip are used to the holistic approach to wellness emphasized in Carson-Newman’s nursing program, but McBee says they experience it on a new level in Haiti, mixing medical healthcare with community.

“I think it makes Carson-Newman extremely valuable, especially from a faith-based perspective,” Cabbage says. “I’m sure other schools have either study abroad opportunities or take trips similar to this, but I think our trip stretches you universally. To go on these trips and see what God can do even in just a week definitely grows your faith.”

McBee says she hopes to grow the group’s mission outreach in Haiti, eventually opening the program up to other groups so they can provide continuing care and elevate the overall health of the people.

“I’ve been to so many medical missions where you just stick a Band-Aid on somebody and that’s pretty much all you do,” McBee said. “In Haiti we’re still putting Band-Aids on, but I’m hopeful because I know it’s possible, so we’ll keep working.”

Volunteers going to Haiti this year include students in nursing, family nurse practitioner, physical assistant and pre-med programs; faculty members, a minister; and volunteers from the God’s Planet for Haiti organization, the Ogle Foundation and Radio Bible Hour.

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