Staying Healthy at Makarios:
Working in a one-room clinic in a school on the north coast in a poor area of the Dominican Republic is a big change from doing pediatric emergency medicine in a large urban hospital. I had been working in the ER for over 11 years when we were called to work full-time with Makarios. I had also done some adult ER and Family Practice before that. I am a Physician Assistant (PA-C) and my training makes me a great fit for this job. My family and I took our first medical trip to Makarios in 2007 and came back once a year, every year, until we came on full-time. We have been here for almost 2 years now. I would like to share a little about my work with Makarios.
My main responsibility is to provide health care to the students at the Makarios School (there are currently 140 kids). I also provide care to their families, the staff at the school and their families, and the clinic is open to walk-ins from the surrounding community. A normal day involves giving ADHD medication to one of our students, seeing acutely sick and injured kids, and walk in patients from the community. I also take phone calls and emails from other missionaries and ex-pats in the area. Sometimes I need to take patients to get labs and x-rays. Other times I need to go to the hospital to visit patients or even take people to the hospital. One of the students has HIV so I need to make sure he gets his medication and regular visits to an HIV clinic.
No two days are the same. In the clinic, I see normal illnesses that we see in the United States (ear infections, fevers, rashes, pneumonia, wheezing, lacerations, abscesses) but I also have to be aware of tropical diseases that are not in the States, for example: Dengue Fever, intestinal parasites, and most recently Chikungunya. I have some basic tests such as quick strep, urine pregnancy, urine dips, and blood sugars that I can do at the clinic but all other lab tests need to be done at a local lab. I spend time looking up medications that have been prescribed to my patients by other health care providers that we don’t have in the United States but are used in Latin and South America (all in Spanish, which is a challenge).
All of the care and medication that I provide is free of charge to everyone. I keep track of all of the heights and weights of the students to make sure they are growing. A lot of our students have been malnourished in the past and some are still struggling with being malnourished. Many patients that I see also have anemia. It is challenging to keep patients healthy if they aren’t getting the vitamins and nutrients that their bodies need and this makes them more susceptible to disease and chronic health issues. At the school we provide the students with both breakfast and lunch along with a multivitamin every day so this helps with their overall health. I also do some health education at the school where I emphasize good hand washing, staying hydrated, educate on how germs are spread, and making healthy choices.
As part of our ministry, we have teams come to the DR that range from five to six people up to forty-five people. With all of these people there are a fair amount of injuries and illness that I am responsible to provide care for. I also prepare the schedule and charts for medical and dental teams that visits once a year each. In the future my hope is to have a medical team visit every six months. If you would like to be involved in one of those trips please let us know. We also have a medical fund that people can give to so that we are able to purchase the needed tests and medications, please consider this opportunity. Click here to donate to the medical fund.
This job is challenging yet rewarding. My mission is to promote health to all that we serve. Not just physical health, but mental, emotional, intellectual, and most importantly spiritual health.
Darren Young, PA-C, MPAS
Makarios International Director of Health