KNOXVILLE – Knoxville native Alicia McClintock knew she wanted to be a doctor, but it was a medical mission trip to Belize that confirmed that international medicine was the best way for her to give back.
McClintock, a senior in biological sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, recently shared her story on UT’s Ready for the World Facebook page. Ready for the World is the campus’s international and intercultural initiative.
“With 10 other pre-health undergraduate students from across the U.S., I set out to provide health services to underprivileged people in remote areas of Belize,” McClintock said. “For 10 days, I was engulfed in the culture and medical needs of Belizean people. I never expected to be so humbled.”
McClintock and the other students made many house visits to survey the number of people living in each household and gather some general information about the people. They would observe the home environment, looking at the family’s water source and how they stored boiled water. They also would look for other environmental hazards, taking note of the materials used to construct the house and whether the toilet was inside or outside.
“Before we could actually treat the patients that we would see in the clinics, we needed to know approximately how many people to expect and be prepared for the health issues that we might be presented with,” McClintock said.
After the home visits, Alicia and her peers set up a clinic in an empty house and set to work. They sought each patient’s personal and family clinical history, measured blood pressure and weight and discussed current health issues. The undergraduates provided information to a doctor who prescribed medications.
Not only did Alicia and the other student help patients at this make-shift clinic, they went out into the larger community to provide free blood pressure checks and glucose-level tests for anyone interested. McClintock said this day was particularly rewarding because of the many people they met.
“Knowing that we were the ones to point them in the right direction in controlling their health issues was so gratifying,” she said.
McClintock said the experience also gave her the chance to learn from seasoned professionals. She learned how to give injections and stitch sutures, and she gained insight about practicing medicine in remote areas.
“The highlight of my trip came when I was given the opportunity to hand out toothbrushes, toothpaste, stickers and coloring books to the children at one of the community schools. I was so overwhelmed by the children’s patience, behavior and sheer excitement that I decided to send more school supplies when I got home,” McClintock said. “I will never forget the citizens of Belize. The lessons I learned on my trip are priceless and I truly feel I have a better understanding of what it means to be Ready for the World.”
McClintock plans to go to medical school and is waiting to complete interviews with a number of universities nationwide. She has also applied for and is waiting to receive news from the military about acceptance into the Health Professionals Scholarship Program. Her ultimate goal is to become a military physician.
Abbey Taylor (865-974-9409, firstname.lastname@example.org)