CMU Global Medical Brigades 2017
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’ nine 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 2009. In March 2018, next spring break, we will go on our tenth brigade. The members of the 7-day hybrid medical and public health 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 Nicaraguans 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 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 an education portion called charla with children 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 attending the service trip are trained throughout the year on the Spanish language and culture. Through the group’s immersion in the communities, students gain insight into the cultural beliefs and perspective of Nicaragua. This has always been an integral part of GMB’s mission. WIth a proper understanding of culture, GMB is better able to address the needs of the communities.
In the latter half of the brigade, the group will be participating in public health and environmental service 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. 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 proper maintenance of these facilities.
Last year, the group collected about $12,000 worth of medication and served 608 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 they cannot even afford.
Our supplies are entirely fundraised. Throughout the year, we collect hygiene supplies from local drug stores through the generosity of customers. We also contact local organizations and pharmacies to donate any medication, supplies, and devices. We apply to several grants and scholarships and hold numerous events to raise necessary funds. Still, we find ourselves struggling to raise enough to provide full care to all of those that come to the clinic.
The first $1500 collected through Crowdfunding will go towards paying the in-country health workers. Any extra funds will be used to alleviate the cost of the trip for the brigaders, which is necessary to make this trip possible. By helping GMB, you will provide students with knowledge of Nicaraguan culture and humanitarian aid, as well as provide the basic right to health to thousands that need it most.