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  • Akshay Kamath

Medical, Dental, and Public Health Mission Trip to Darien, Panama

Updated: Jun 17, 2019

I cannot overstate my resultant gratitude and fulfillment from a perception-shattering Global Brigades trip I took last week. My friends and I led an immersive medical, dental, and public health brigade to the Darién province of Panama. Working alongside doctors, dentists, and a pharmacist to aid underserved communities, we were able to dig septic holes for latrines, prepare batches of concrete for flooring, take vitals for families in triage, apply fluoride treatments for those with dental needs, pack/prepare medications for all the residents who came to the clinic, shadow health professionals for our own growth, and above all, develop a more precise understanding of what it means to be a hard-working, educated, and informed individual who simply does not have access to the wide array of resources we, in America, take for granted. I have learned so much from spending time not only with the local Panamanians, but also with every brigader that has made this journey worth it. And I mean this in every sense of the sentence


Dimpie, thank you for teaching me how to take blood pressure, with all your tips and tricks, and for persisting to ensure the data informatics were all taken care of (even if it meant staying up till ungodly hours). Kavya, thank you for teaching me that under even the most unfavorable physical circumstances, it's still possible to keep our cool (at least on the surface). Nidhi, thank you for teaching me that there are many more ways to have "fun" than had initially been planned for the brigade, and for being resourceful enough to turn bugs into a means of entertainment every night. Disha, thank you for teaching me that the best moments of the trip could happen as a reaction to said bugs, and for providing imo the most hilarious moment of the entire trip. Esha, thank you for teaching me to capture the moments we least expect to be impactful (lol), and for always being a positive force on the trip. Cara, thank you for stating loudly your appreciation of our mission and for making "normal" interactions with Esha that much more entertaining. Neil, thank you for teaching me a more effective manner of keeping bugs away and for capturing the trip with impeccable clarity. Sanju, thank you for teaching me that despite possibly "not being cool" every once in a while, our unity in giving back remains wholly intact. Sam, thank you for teaching me to seamlessly integrate myself into an entirely foreign culture despite the obvious language barrier, and for being such an active helper whenever anyone needed a hand. Chaithanya, thank you for showing me that despite getting stuck with a single "role" for days on end, there's still different ways to make that role purposeful. Purva, thank you for teaching me to keep a positive attitude throughout the brigade, especially with your undying commitment to entering patient data on an excel sheet. Mythili, thank you for showing me, modestly, how to become a sharper individual, even and especially outside of the communities that we helped. Valerie, thank you for teaching me that adapting our tastes (literally and figuratively) can be done without the slightest complaint. Nirja, thank you for offering me your shrewd judgment about buying the culturally relevant necklace; my mom really appreciated it! Merin, thank you for teaching me the facility of communication by taking the initiative in starting conversation with anyone and everyone.


Vladimir, thank you for showing us the importance of being flexible, and that even when days of the brigade got cut short, we were still able to continue our mission in a different environment. Valerie, thank you for teaching me that even the greatest of enemies can still get along. Carlos (doctor), thank you for imparting your vast medical wisdom, and also for teaching me awesome slang words. Lafiama and Jesus, thank you for teaching me how to apply fluoride treatments to babies that cry a lot. Carlos (pharmacist), thank you for teaching me the precision required in your profession. To Keysi (the translator), Jorge (the driver), Natalia (the paramedic), Pablo (both the driver and community helper), and everyone else that has helped me become a more aware person, and a more satisfied helper, nothing more can capture what I have to say than thank you.

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©2019 by Akshay Kamath