El Paso Dentists and Doctors Run Free Clinic at Local Juarez Church .
(08/06/2009) - - On Sunday, a group of volunteers consisting of one doctor, four dentists, four other medical professionals, and six others from Health Care Volunteer, a local nonprofit, crossed the border into Juarez, Mexico. The members of Health Care Volunteer partnered with CHIA Missions (Christian Hands in Action) group for equipment for the journey.
As the volunteers drove down streets filled with troops and police, they observed people going about their daily routines. While the volunteers were aware of the risks of travelling to Juarez, they also knew that they were critically needed. According to Pat Romero, a dental assistant, “The way things are in Juarez with the violence, you feel intimidated…. with the troops passing on with the trucks…. but at the same time you’re hoping & praying that everything goes well.” Dr. Neil Patel, President and Founder of HealthCare Volunteer, said that medical and dental relief missions have virtually ceased to the area over the past seven months. Since January, 2008 about 2,200 have been killed in Juarez due to drug-related violence. Many underserved people in Juarez have gone without health services due to inability to pay and a shortage of doctors. Therefore, members of HealthCare Volunteer sensed a great need to serve these people.
At 9:30 am, the volunteers set up a clinic consisting of two dental chairs and one medical examining room in the Inglesia Cristo Nazerene in a neighborhood that had never received medical services from an outside organization. This church was an ideal location because, as a central gathering place for the neighborhood’s residents, patients could visit the clinic before or after church services. The small, makeshift clinic was soon overwhelmed by a line of dozens of people, many of them in severe pain, hoping to receive much needed medical and dental attention. According to Ravi Raghavan, C.O.O. of HealthCare Volunteer, “The most rewarding thing was addressing each patient’s chief complaint and advising them on what further treatment they would need. Also, I was really proud of all of our volunteers for braving the risks and volunteering in Juarez. Knowing that we had set these patients on the path to better health was a reward worth the risks.” The medical and dental team diagnosed everything from scoliosis to hernias. Dental extractions, fillings, and minor oral surgeries were also done to alleviate many patients’ extreme pain. At 5:30 pm, the volunteers closed the clinic.
According to another El Paso hygienist, Lori Salas, the patients were very receptive and welcomed the care. “They just wanted someone to see them and take care of them as much as possible. They were really grateful & thankful for anything that we could do to help.” These and many other volunteers would like to return to Juarez because of the great need they saw in the long line that stretched beyond the clinic doors, and because of the gratefulness that they saw in the patients’ eyes after their treatment was complete.
The staff and volunteers at HealthCare Volunteer look forward to setting up more mobile clinics in Juarez and other distressed areas where providing medical care has been difficult due to violence or adverse political circumstances. They will apply the lessons they learned in terms of equipment needed and efficient treatment practices towards their next volunteering experience. At the end of the day, one patient asked when the group would return. The volunteers responded that they would return soon as soon as they received funding for another trip. The entire trip was made possible by public donations to HealthCare Volunteer. For more information about HealthCare Volunteer please visit Healthcarevolunteer.com/donate. HealthCare Volunteer is a 501(c) (3) global health organization.
By Katie Sutherland – Staff Writer HealthCare Volunteer
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