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St. Luke’s analyst immerses herself in clinic as she prepares for career transition

Fehringer (left) shadowed family medicine physician's assistant Courtney Crossland during clinic.
By Alexis Bennett, News and Community
June 28, 2019
One makeshift dental clinic room lacked electricity. Providers and students, like Fehringer, worked in the dark.

Pre-medicine student and St. Luke’s Integrated Health Technologies (IHT) analyst Meredith Fehringer is on her first medical mission trip to Honduras with the Faith and Humanity Medical Mission team. In this on-the-ground correspondence, she reflects on the experience of treating patients who’d walked miles and waited hours to receive care.

Every day of our six clinic days, our medical team was greeted by hundreds of patients, many of whom had walked several miles in the tropical heat to see us.

Most of the patients we saw were women, children and elders who sometimes waited hours for treatment.

When they were finally seen, they were escorted to an open-air, makeshift clinic pod, with little privacy.

Interpreters were used when needed as they shared their intimate experiences and complaints with our staff—complete strangers who they may never see again. They smiled the entire time, trusting us with their health and safety. We didn’t take it for granted.

Observing and serving the providers and team over the week was a privilege. American providers quickly realized that standard protocols, such as charting wasn’t possible, and in most cases, not necessary.

Consults became more personal.

Providers found a rhythm, seeing large families all at once with each member sharing their unique concerns.

The group of Honduran physicians we traveled with were resources for local patient knowledge and peer-advisors on complicated situations. St. Luke’s providers partnered with them to provide the best care possible.

Our group came together organically, leaning on each other’s expertise.  

St. Luke’s neonatal services nurse practitioner Tony Broderick was sought for his pediatric knowledge and infectious spirit around kids. St. Luke’s skilled nursing physician Dr. Stephen Montamat was at home with geriatric patients. Dr. Leslie Nona and her pre-med student-assistant tag-teamed patient treatment.

I worked closely with St. Luke’s family medicine physician’s assistant Courtney Crossland, who was able to provide me with hands-on shadowing experience in my area of interest.

The busiest provider of all may have been St. Luke's behavioral health medical director Dr. Sam Pullen.  

St. Luke's Dr. Pullen and Tony Broderick work with a Honduran interpreter to provide mental health intervention.

Mental health was a new area of focus for the Faith and Humanity group, but it was perhaps our greatest accomplishment.

Many patients who came to our clinics had encountered violence and adverse situations in their lives.

Dr. Pullen worked with Honduran physicians to provide depression screening and on-the-fly mental health counseling, with the assistance of a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). In many of these consults, our mental health providers provided support that patients had previously never had access to.

On average, our providers saw 25 to 35 patients a day, communicating through an interpreter or limited Spanish.

Every day we were mentally and physically drained, but we didn’t feel it.

The energy of our group was matched by that of the Honduran support teams, which kept our spirits lifted. We ended and began our days the same, with good conversation and great food. The time between was filled with giving what we could to help people.

This trip was a success and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of it.

This trip provided students with opportunity to see unique clinical situations and ask personal questions. We learned not just about patient care, but also specialties, career motivators and life outside of work.

About The Author

Alexis Bennett is a consultant for St. Luke's Community Health and Engagement.