AMIGOS' Winter Trip to Senegal Filled With Eye-Opening Education

This winter break, a group of seven students and one optometrist travelled back to Senegal to see around 400 patients in four days of clinic. This was the second trip to the Saint-Louis area, which includes the village of Rao working with the Yoonu Njub Organization.

This trip was unique in that the team was the first to implement an Electronic Health Record (EHR) system created by our very own Dr. Craig Bowen, the attending doctor on this trip. The EHR includes everything from basic patient information to a library of potential treatment options. It will facilitate continued care in the area, making it possible for future teams to easily access patient data to be used in follow-up care. It will also allow for data collection to paint a better picture for future teams of what to expect in order to be able to better prepare for their trips.

Near the end of their time there, the team met a woman who was suffering from irritated and goopy eyes. When looking under her eyelids, we were stunned by the amount of scarring and mucous. This was trachoma, one of the leading causes of preventable blindness in the developing world. She was prescribed azithromycin to battle the bacterial infection. This was a great opportunity to help someone in need but also to see the communication across language and cultural barriers. The patient interactions that students experience is arguably the most memorable part of these outreach trips. It is hard to calm a patient who is afraid and does not fully understand what is happening with their health. Imagine the challenge when they do not share common words. This is where we connect as humans, not just patients and doctors.

As much as we tried to make even a small impact, none of it would have been possible without our hosts. They worked long hours alongside our team to make sure that patients understood the blabberings of an optometry student. They made sure patients were comfortable and had all of their questions answered. Not to mention, they welcomed us like old friends, making us feel at home in a foreign space and taking care that we were well-fed and rested.

On their days off, the team enjoyed the wildlife at Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary and learned about some history of Senegal and the Slave Trade at Gorée Island.

May. 3, 2019