Cox College Travels to Haiti

Lessons are undoubtedly learned within classroom walls – but there are others that are best gleaned out in the field. That’s why, for 13 years, students from Cox College have traveled abroad to treat patients in some of the world’s most impoverished communities. Considered by some to be the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, the time in Haiti gave students and other travelers an opportunity to give much-needed care – and also take life lessons home with them.

“This trip gives them a chance to contribute to communities that need help, but also come back with a greater sense of empathy and compassion for the world,” says Leisa Lower, a professor at Cox College who has traveled with students on the school-organized trips for several years.

Preparations for the trips begin months in advance, and were coordinated by Cox College professor Debbi Groves, who also traveled to Haiti on the trip. Students and faculty begin collecting supplies to donate to the clinic they volunteer in and is overseen by Lifeline Christian Mission. Those items include baby formula, medicine and medical supplies, some of which were provided by CoxHealth.

All items are carefully packed in duffel bags, since import regulations strictly limit how many supplies may be
brought into the country. The medicines are also strategically packed, because if it’s obvious what they are, they may be taken away at the border. “It’s not illegal to have them, but it’s difficult to get through customs because they will be confiscated and sold on the black market,” says Lower.

While in Haiti, the students treat patients alongside licensed health care practitioners. Locals come from miles – even hours – away for treatment. “People will come down the mountain to be seen,” says Lower. “They’ll sit in the waiting room all day until there is an opening for them.”

The ailments they see are wide and varied, ranging from prenatal care to parasites, dehydration and everything in between. “Until you really see what it’s like in an area like this, you don’t truly understand,” says Lower. Faced with limited supplies, she notes that students often have to think quickly to find innovative solutions to help patients. “What students get out of it can’t be found elsewhere. They have to think, ‘What do I have at my disposal that I can make work?’”

While students primarily learn from hands-on practice, they’re also required to journal as part of their coursework. “Many of them write about how they’ve never seen things like this anywhere else,” says Lower. “It truly is a life-changing experience for each one of them, and I believe ultimately contributes to their skill as a practitioner later in life.”

Story by Kaitlyn McConnell, Media Relations Coordinator/CoxHealth