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Summer Honors Research Fellow Sees Changes at Dominican Health Clinic

Patrick Baumgart ’10 was searching early last fall for a medical service trip when his father recommended a summer program with Creighton University’s Institute for Latin American Concern. The elder Baumgart had attended the institute when he was a dental student.

Intent on joining Creighton’s program, the biochemistry major at Loyola Marymount University applied for the Albertson Research Fellowship, an award given to students enrolled in the Honors Program to fund summer projects. Baumgart was awarded a $5,000 grant to travel to Santiago, Dominican Republic, with 15 pharmaceutical, nursing, dental and medical students, as well as medical professionals enrolled in Creighton’s institute. 

Baumgart helped establish a clinic in the mountainous region of Las Carreras, in the community’s local school building. He worked as a translator, helping patient intake and occasionally taking patient vitals. 

The volunteers spent every morning working with patients at the clinic, and provided educational charlas, or discussion groups, addressing topics such as AIDS prevention and awareness, as well as the necessity for proper oral hygiene. 

“Many of the individuals who came to the clinic had no prior medical or dental treatment,” Baumgart said. “We were able to relieve the community of an extensive amount of sickness and oral pain through the administration of basic drugs and treatments.” 

The group made house calls in the afternoons to treat patients who could not leave their homes. They also explored the community’s rivers, played baseball and mingled with the local people. “Many times, we would visit adjacent communities and see the locals who we had previously worked with in the clinic. Even days later these people whom we hardly knew were happy to walk up to us, and converse with us as friends.” 

Baumgart begins his senior year focused on medical school after graduation. He hopes to go into anesthesiology, surgery or radiology.

“Since my experiences in the Dominican Republic, I have grown to more fully understand the degree to which poverty affects the quality of medical care in a developing nation,” Baumgart said. “I hope that through my stories and experiences, I may encourage other students interested in medicine to pursue similar service endeavors.”