Trip to Philippines Reignites Students

International Medical Missions (IMM) are optional trips where Kettering College students, faculty, staff, and alumni serve patients in another country. They learn from each other and those they serve and often feel forever changed by the experience that inevitably challenges them in new ways.

March 3 – 14 a group from Kettering College visited a wellness clinic in Pagudpud, Philippines. The clinic is staffed by locals who live there year-round, but they welcome visitors from other countries to assist. In addition to seeing patients in the main clinic, the group went into the villages—which are called barangays—each day to bring medical care to those who can’t easily get to the clinic.

Students, faculty, staff, and alumni worked together to treat patients for a variety of ailments including hypertension, diabetes, and toothaches. Several pregnant women from the barangays received ultrasounds to hear and see their babies for the first time, as this technology is extremely rare in the Philippines.

Steve Carlson, IMM Director, says the Kettering College team saw nearly 1,000 patients during their time there. He points out that the trip created several inter-disciplinary learning experiences, as students of different specialties learned from each other and alumni as they served patients together. This means when the students move on to be healthcare professionals, they’ll be better equipped to know what their peers are doing and to best serve their patients.

An example of this is when physician assistant studies (PA) students learned the basics of an ultrasound machine from a Kettering College alumna who now works as an ultrasound technician. She educated the PA students on what she does, arming them with insight beyond their usual protocol.  Carlson says there were so many educational moments such as this in the clinic and in the barangay clinics. There was no medical hierarchy—just healthcare students, alumni, and professionals banning together to solve problems the best they could while learning from each other and the people they served.

Carlson says that for some students on the trip, they haven’t reached the level of serving patients yet in their education. They have studied intensely, memorizing important information, eager to use this to assist people. On the IMM trips, he sees students become revitalized and reminded about why they went into healthcare as they see knowledge combined with compassion to create action.

Both nursing and pre-nursing students attended this trip. Carlson says it was rewarding to see nursing majors mentor the pre-nursing students on how to do such things as take vitals and conduct basic lab work. He says, “It was an affirming experience for students who are graduating to remind them this is why they went into nursing but also for the pre-nursing students to have them be reminded they are still excited and motivated to answer the call to work in healthcare.”

“Anytime we’re uncomfortable, it forces us to ask ourselves bigger questions.”

-Steve Carlson, IMM Director

As the director of the IMM trips, Carlson makes sure the entire group gathers every morning for prayer and evening for a debrief and recap, so the team can help each other navigate the emotions that often come with stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. Participants have similar reflections on what the experience does within them as they process what they see each day.

They learn a new culture and are pushed to think critically as they work in a clinic with limited resources. They must balance the question of what they would do to best serve the patient with what they can actually do with what resources are available. Students often voice feeling both compassion and frustration on these trips as they come to terms with the fact that not everyone can be helped in the way the participants would like.

In addition to checking in with students to hear about what they experienced and learned each day, Carlson says he is sure to ask them, “What is all this telling you about yourself?” The group gets into discussions revolving around values and self-awareness. He says, “Anytime we’re uncomfortable, it forces us to ask ourselves bigger questions.”

This discomfort of traveling and the exhaustion and uncertainty that comes with it, however, typically brings joy and fulfillment to the participants. They are able to help patients and move beyond a classroom where they only learn about it. On the IMM trips, they are doing it. Carlson says he hears the same comment after every IMM trip: “I had forgotten why I was going into healthcare, and now I remember.”

(All Photos Courtesy of Steve Carlson)


Alumni Enter To Win

Winning an Apple Watch, iPad, or Kettering Merchandise has never been easier. Click the button below to fill our the Kettering College Alumni survey and be automatically entered to win one of the two prizes below! Simple as that!
Sharing the survey when you’re finished increases your chances of winning. You get one additional entry for every other alumni member that you share it with and completes the form!