onlineDr. Dom

Upstate team travels to El Salvador on a medical mission

Every year for more than a decade, Joseph Domachowske, MD, professor of pediatrics and an infectious disease specialist at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, has traveled to El Salvador on a mission to deliver medical care and supplies to the villagers of Rancho Grande in San Vicente.

Joining him this year are Brooke Fraser, RN, pediatric nurse at the children’s hospital and a student at Upstate’s College of Nursing; Caitlin Stiglmeier, MD, and Vanessa Orrego, MD, both medical residents at Upstate; along with 80 area high school students. The team departed for El Salvador on Feb. 12 and will return Feb. 20.

Through generous community donations, the team from Upstate will bring with them supplies, such as vitamins, cold and cough medicine, baby powder, newborn formula, toothpaste, toothbrushes and dental floss, and much more. Domachowske receives donations in the form of anti-parasites and antibiotics and an array of additional medications not typically available to those who live in the remote village.

This marks Brooke Fraser’s second trip with the group and, like last year, her son, Bennett, will join her on the adventure. As a pediatric nurse with 20 years of clinical experience, she wanted to take her profession to the next level. More than that, she felt drawn to bring aid to an area with such health care disparities. “I wanted to step outside my comfort zone, out of the box we often find ourselves in, and I wanted my son to do that, too. I wanted to open his eyes to the reality of how a good percentage of the world lives and offer his time to lend a hand to someone in need,” said Fraser. She and her son were overwhelmed with the generosity of their community and look forward to showering the Rancho Grande people with the donations. Two of Bennett’s best friends will travel with them this year—Nick Hallinan and Emily Drake.

Vanessa Orrego, MD, a medical resident at Upstate, has long desired to spend time doing clinical work in a developing county. “I am excited to have this opportunity to travel to rural El Salvador as a physician to provide medical services. I look forward to working alongside Syracuse-area high school students while they work to better the community,” said Orrego.

The group doesn’t deliver medical care alone. Last year, one of their projects was to help dig a trench from the church well to the school. And dig they did. The trench was 100 yards in length, three to four feet deep and was completed during their weeklong stay, along with the help of the dozens of high school students who traveled with the group from Syracuse.

The nearly 80 area high school students joining the team this year come largely from Holy Family and Young Life, two churches in the Syracuse area.

Of her trip last year, medical resident Caitlin Stiglmeier said, “The week had been a blur, but each day seemed to go at an effortless pace, despite sweating constantly, being covered in a fine layer of dirt and showering only occasionally. We brought school supplies, shoes, medical supplies and medicine; we dug trenches, built toilets, repainted, and repaired. But the trip also allows high school students, and adults, the opportunity to have their minds blown at the reality of another part of the world.”

To say that Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital Medical Director Thomas Welch, MD, is proud of the group would be an understatement.

“Like most great children’s hospitals, those of us at the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital believe that we have a broad responsibility, which extends to children throughout the world,” said Welch. “This responsibility includes research, teaching, and direct patient care. Research here, for example, contributed to the therapies used today to prevent mother to infant spread of HIV in developing countries. Our faculty have directly educated health providers in places as remote as Haiti and Liberia, and we have hosted student physicians from other areas. We have brought children from developing countries to Syracuse for life-changing treatments. The work of these four individuals in El Salvador, bringing pediatric care directly to children, is another way in which we share our expertise with children over the globe.”

Caption: From left, Joseph Domachowski, MD, Brooke Fraser, RN, Caitlin Stiglmeier, MD, and Vanessa Orrego, MD, are in El Salvador on a mission to deliver medical care and supplies.

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