It’s tough to put in a few sentences one’s experience in Santa Ana. This past May, I had the pleasure of joining the BCM student brigade during their trip. This was my fourth time being part of a brigade to Santa Ana, and it was certainly a unique experience in its own right just as much as the three previous trips were. Besides the fact that it is one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever see, or the fact that the people welcome you to their village and home with open arms, something about being part of the Shoulder to Shoulder experience keeps me going back year after year.
As a member of the ZAH, I had been heavily involved with community volunteer activities in the village, most recently helping to bring to fruition the local Health Committee’s goal of constructing outdoor latrines for some of the poorest families in the village. This time, however, I was able to spend one-hundred percent of my time in the clinic. As an incoming first-year medical student, being a part of clinic was very exciting and beneficial not just in the academic sense, but it continued to serve as a reminder and reinforcement for why I chose to a part of the medical profession. Dr. Parkerson and the BCM students were gracious enough to let me shadow them during patient consultations, were always receptive to any questions I would ask (no matter how trivial they may have seemed), and were genuinely forthright in imparting any knowledge and “tricks of the trade” I could possibly grasp. I was included in all discussions pertaining to the clinical cases we had seen, and whoever was lucky enough to be sitting next to me would without hesitation help clarify anything that would have been beyond my pre-basic scientific knowledge. I never once felt out of place and felt like I got the most I could out of the trip with the brigade.
All in all, I could not have asked for a better experience. I often say that one of the major reasons for my desire to make the trip to Santa Ana every year is simply the people. Not just the groups I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of, but also the people we are serving. Even though they live in a place devoid of common material wants and possessions, they still care about their health. One of the special and unique aspects about Shoulder to Shoulder is that we are helping them with something they want to see improve within their community. Seeing the clinic and community grow over the last few years has been a great joy and truly special for me to watch, and I hope to be part of that growth in the years to come.