“We provided care to hundreds of refugees currently living in Costa Rica,” fourth-year PC School of Pharmacy student Tai Navalle said about her recent mission trip.
Last month, Navalle traveled with pharmacists, providers, students and volunteers from Christ for the City International (CFCI) to provide care for refugees. The experience was part of her clinical rotations required for graduation.
Throughout the trip, she saw firsthand how pharmacists are much more than drug information experts.
Serving More than Medical Needs
“One family, grandparents and their two grandsons fled from El Salvador,” Navalle said. “As we brought the family through the clinic, the grandmother, an ER nurse, shared the story of her daughter’s death and how she now cares for her grandchildren.
“We provided not only medical care but also emotional support for all members of the family.”
Navalle worked with three licensed pharmacists during the mission trip. She helped dispense medications and kept up with the pharmacy inventory so that the pharmacists could notify providers when they were low or out of medications.
“I was also able to give recommendations to providers with the supervision of my preceptor,” Navalle said.
Several students from the Governor’s School of Science and Mathematics in Hartsville, S.C., served on the medical mission trip too. They rotated with the providers, nurses and pharmacy.
“I taught the students about pharmacy, medical missions, medications and disease states,” Navalle said.
Navalle’s two-week stay was her first time traveling to Costa Rica, although she has been to Latin America twice since being at the PC School of Pharmacy. She received the Pharmacy Research Summer Intern Award during her second year and researched at the University of the Valley of Guatemala.
Last year she went on her first medical mission trip to Dominican Republic. The trip coincided with an elective course, Missions Experience in IPE/International Healthcare Delivery.
While she spent only two weeks in Costa Rica, Navalle started preparing for the trip months ago.
She began by researching the demographics and healthcare system of Costa Rica. Navalle prepared three presentations for healthcare professionals about global health, focusing on global antimicrobial stewardship, tuberculosis and emergency preparedness.
“I also collected data for my preceptor for her research project about medication adherence for hypertensive patients in the Columbia area,” Navalle said. “We were going to compare it with Costa Rican patients to see if there were similar barriers in medication access.”
The Need for Global Health Care
Navalle says her experience in Costa Rica revealed to her the need for global healthcare.
“Short-term mission trips are great, but is there in-country follow-up for the patients we see?” she asked. “So many of the medicines we take for granted because they’re so common do require close monitoring.
“And we didn’t have a robust formulary that included treatment for things like mental health, cancer and Parkinson’s.”
Navalle is comforted that CFCI has a clinic in La Carpio, Costa Rica, to help patients in nearby areas. The organization will help by bussing patients from other areas to the clinic there for follow-up appointments.
“There’s a lot of planning that goes into a medical mission trip, but the most important thing is sustainability,” she said. “OneWorldHealth and CFCI have a strong presence in Costa Rica to help in the sustainability of our short-term mission trip.”
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