Global Medical Brigades 2020
Global Brigades is an international global health and sustainable development organization. Global Brigades takes a holistic development approach by collectively implementing health, economic, and educational initiatives to reach a community’s development goals in a sustainable way. The mission of Global Medical Brigades (GMB), one of Global Brigades’ seven programs (Medical, Water, Public Health, Business, etc.), is to provide sustained healthcare to underserved communities by improving access to healthcare for rural community members by organizing mobile-clinics with the help of community leaders and volunteers.
Carnegie Mellon University’s chapter of Global Medical Brigades (CMU GMB) was established in 2008. During our spring break in March of 2020, we will go on our twelfth brigade, this time to Panama. The members of the 8-day medical-public health hybrid brigade will participate in Global Brigades’ holistic approach to improving health.
The primary goal of the medical brigade is to provide basic medical care to those who would otherwise not have access to healthcare. Students interact directly with community members while taking vital signs, such as height, weight, and blood pressure of those that attend the clinic. Students also shadow medical professionals, either physicians/dentists recruited from the United States or in-country doctors, and run a vision station in order to provide patients with glasses. Brigaders also work in the pharmacy where they fill the necessary prescriptions. Finally, students host education sessions called “charla”– one targeted towards children and the other towards adults– to educate them about particular sanitation and dental hygiene practices. The group has found that interaction with the community creates meaningful connections that promote effective, personable, and culturally sensitive care. Brigaders are trained throughout the year in the Spanish language and learn about Panamanian culture. Through the group’s immersion in the communities, students gain insight into the cultural beliefs and perspective of the Panamanian people. This has always been an integral part of GMB’s mission. With a proper understanding of culture, we are better able to address the needs of these communities.
In the latter half of the brigade, the group will be participating in public health projects. The group strives to address the illnesses seen in clinic at the source by engineering solutions that fit with the daily life of community members. By building sanitation units, several illnesses linked to general hygiene can be dramatically reduced. The construction of eco-friendly stoves helps rid lung diseases and cement flooring can reduce exposure to disease-causing parasites. The infrastructure for clean water systems aims to reduce illness and health problems related to unsafe drinking water. All of these projects require the participation of community members. This allows the community to be personally invested in their own health and educates them on the proper maintenance of these facilities.
Last year, the group collected about $12,000 worth of medication and hygiene supplies, and served 517 patients. Without the support of Global Brigades, its chapters, and its supporters, community members would have to travel a day or longer by foot to gain access to rudimentary health care that is rarely affordable.
Why We Need Your Help
Our supplies are entirely fundraised. Throughout the year, we collect hygiene supplies from local drug stores through the generosity of the Pittsburgh community. We also contact local organizations and pharmacies to donate any medications, supplies, and devices. We apply for several grants and scholarships and hold numerous fundraising events. Still, we find ourselves struggling to raise enough to provide full care to all of those that come to the clinic. The money raised from CMU Crowdfunding will go towards preparing the medical clinic, organizing the public health projects that we will carry out once we arrive in Panama, and the ongoing efforts Global Brigades makes as an organization throughout the year.