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Unsung: Minji Woo

Unsung: Minji Woo
September 18, 2015 No comments

This upcoming October, Minji will be traveling with her team to serve in Guatemala. Her team applied to be a part of #CraftingWellness and will be donating MDF Instruments to local Guatemalan clinicians. Here is her story:

I come from a long family of doctors and have always had an interest in science. While I was volunteering at a hospital, one of the doctors I worked with invited me to join their team to serve in Guatemala, and I have been in love ever since. This is my 4th trip to Guatemala and I look forward to and have made a commitment to attend every year. Our team travels each year with our equipment through rural areas of Guatemala bringing healthcare to regions that do not have easy access to doctors and clinics.

We see hundreds of patients daily, anything from cuts and scrapes to the common cold. Local pastors and community leaders inform villages and towns nearby of our arrival and people travel up to a night before to receive medical treatment. We would set up at around 8 am and already have people waiting outside to be treated. Because there are not enough medical personnel to treat the volume of patients, local people sometimes have to wait in line for 5-6 hours. Though patients wait happily and joyfully, spouses of medical volunteers also reach out to connect with and entertain those waiting in line.

We also set up clinic at orphanages. What is so heart wrenching is that there are so many children in these orphanages. The social workers work really hard, but there really is an overwhelming amount of orphans in Guatemala. Some of these children were abandoned in garbage cans and are looking to just have a moment of someone’s attention. Many of these children crave attention, love, and hugs. They want to hold your hand all day and play games. We come every year in hopes that we can provide some stability in our care and to ensure that patients can expect to see us at least annually.

Ailments that were heavily present amongst patients were hypertension, diabetes, and fungal infections, especially in children. Most of the children had shoes, but many were tattered and torn. The roads are unpaved, sometimes muddy, and the children aren’t taught hygienic practices for their feet. We make sure we bring anti-fungal cream for this reason.

What was a learning experience you had from the your first trip?

On our first trip, we also handed out toothbrushes and floss, but the people didn’t know what it was used for. So we had translators that were dedicated to educating the local people how to brush and floss their teeth. In the next trip, we worked with local dental students to treat and educate patients basic practices of dental hygiene.

Do you have advice you would give to volunteers who wish to go abroad?

Expect the worst. I would even advise for you to not read travel guides about the area, because they aren’t representative of the rural regions you are serving. Expect no running water, expect bathrooms that don’t flush, expect muddy roads.

Bring bug spray obviously, sanitary wipes, and snacks… but I would advise against bringing gifts. We were advised by local social workers that unless you can be certain to bring enough gifts for everyone, it’s best not to bring any at all.

I would encourage anyone who has a chance to volunteer, to go out and do it. You not only remember why you are pursuing medicine in the first place, but you learn so much.

– Minji Woo, 4th year medical student and volunteer

Unsung, is a feature MDF proudly brings to the MDF community highlighting the incredible MDF’ers who are truly #CraftingWellness. We hope to inspire, encourage, and connect humanity by sharing the stories from the thousands of anonymous individuals whose imprint can be seen in the lives of countless others.

Posted in: blog