Medical resident puts expertise to work with Honduras Project
By Paul Mayne
February 13, 2014
Alisha Gabriel doesn’t mind logging a few kilometers to further her education.
Born and raised in Bermuda, she finished high school in Windsor, Ont., before taking an unconventional route and heading straight to medical school, at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Following that six-year program, Gabriel made her way to Western, where she is currently a second-year medical resident.
“Western was my top choice for my pediatrics residency because of its excellent reputation for research and teaching, as well as the new state-of-the-art children's hospital,” said the 25-year-old Gabriel. “I was also drawn to Western’s Pediatric program because of how approachable and supportive the staff and residents are. It is such a privilege to be able to work with and be taught by such brilliant, but down to earth, people.”
But her ‘travelling education’ is far from over.
Gabriel, taking a break from her residency at Western, is working on her Masters of Public Health at Oxford University in the United Kingdom, where she is a Bermuda Rhodes Scholar. She wants to use her experience at Oxford by advocating for children, especially those who are most vulnerable and marginalized by their circumstances.
And she is putting that to immediate use, as Gabriel will be boarding a plane this March to travel more than 8,400 kilometres to Honduras, where she will be joined by others, including fellow Western resident student Mallory Chavannes, for the Honduras Medical and Dental Project.
“Basically, we will be travelling to the remote areas of Honduras to see those children who aren't able to get to the main cities to see physicians,” Gabriel said. “I think this is such a wonderful initiative because it means that we are able to reach those in the poorest and most remote areas of Honduras.”
Such a medical mission was always on her to-do list, but Gabriel purposely waited until her time in residency.
“Western offers opportunities, such as this project, which give residents the opportunity to tailor their education in order to develop skills in many different areas,” she said. “I wanted to make sure I had the skills and experience necessary to be able to contribute in a practical way. The other part of this project that I love is the fact that we are going as a multi-disciplinary team.”
Along with the two resident doctors will be a full-time paediatrician, two dentists and a nursing staff.
Gabriel is aware her weeklong stay will involve getting up before the sun and travelling four hours to the rural area of Gracias, but she anticipates getting to meet and help children who, for some, have never seen a doctor before.
“Once we arrive in the village we will be running a pediatric clinic for all of the children in the surrounding areas. On average, we’ll see over 800 children during the course of the week. We will also be bringing medical supply boxes with us and leaving them in the communities we visit.”
Each box has approximately $5,000 worth of medication that has been donated to the project. Gabriel is hoping her team is able to bring 10 complete boxes.
With 60 per cent of Honduras’ population below the poverty line, simple things such as access to clean water or even the most basic medications, like antibiotics or Tylenol, are considered luxuries.
“Realistically, I think the impact I will be able to make is quite small in the grand scheme of solving health disparity of children in Honduras,” Gabriel said. “Even though we will likely see 800 or more children, there will still be thousands who were not able to come to the clinic and who will not have access to even the most basic health care.
“It can be quite daunting to think that my efforts are only a ‘drop in the bucket.’ But I believe if each person uses their time and skills to contribute to the ‘bucket,’ our small collective efforts will go a long way in helping to change the disparities and inequalities that exist in our world today. So, even if I only make a difference in one child’s life, for me all of my efforts will be worth it.”
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