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Instructor aims at increasing healthcare in Third World countries

By : Regina Rafanan

Everyone has a mission in life, whether it’s to be come a millionaire by the age of 30 or to find a cure for cancer. For Laura Terriquez-Kasey, clinical instructor for the Decker School of Nursing, it’s to provide healthcare assistance for people in Third World countries.

Earlier this semester, Terriquez-Kasey was the team leader for five University students and their faculty advisor, Maureen Daws, to the Dominican Republic. The group worked for the Episcopal Mission Medical Team in cooperation with the World Health Organization, the Diocese of the Dominican Republic Episcopal Church and clinics in the region of Juan Dulio, Dominican Republic.

A total of 22 people participated, including students from St. James Church in Albany.

In the Juan Dulio region, a rural and remote area, Terriquez-Kasey’s team spent its days assisting the residents who experience countless environmental and medical concerns and a lack of support and provisions. The impoverished area has limited services yet residents suffer from major health problems including a high rates of diabetes, heart disease, environmental illnesses and accidents.

These types of challenges are what Terriquez-Kasey believes nursing students must experience. “In the United States, we don’t see a lot of the same major health concerns because of our environmental and U.S. Department of Agriculture efforts,” she said. “They have no concept of health requirements in regard to food standards and they really don’t have a clear way of cleaning their garbage so environmental-related illnesses are major concerns.”

Terriquez-Kasey wants her students to develop a “true understanding of poverty and the challenges it brings” and “absorb the cultural impact of what they’re seeing.” She has conducted mission work for the past 10 years and is a member of the New York Disaster Medical Assistance Team, and has previously traveled to Juan Dulio to serve in the clinics of Santa Fe, San Pedo de Macoris, La Romana and La Progressivia.

Senior nursing student Carey Stelmack said the trip expanded her horizons. “It was a chance to give back to a different culture and ethnicity,” she said. “It was an eye-opening experience where we learned to appreciate what we have and don’t appreciate.” Basic daily tasks included setting up and assisting in the clinic’s pharmacy. Each student worked in a different area each day with a majority of the work consisting of lab testing for tuberculosis, blood glucose, HIV/AIDS and urinalysis. Students treated from 60 to 70 patients, using Spanish-speaking interpreters to help with the language barrier.

Terriquez-Kasey plans to travel again this summer to the Dominican Republic, bringing additional students as part of a course that will work to improve community health and education there.

“These people live with hazards and environmental problems every day and we have to look at the long-term situation,” she said. However, Terriquez-Kasey believes if students continue to support the community in the rebuilding of clinics and schools, they can give back more than just supplies — they can also help give hope to the area.

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Last Updated: 10/14/08