Med stu­dent help­ing in Hon­duras

Har­bour Grace na­tive to par­tic­i­pate in mo­bile clinic in Cen­tral Amer­ica

The Compass - - NEWS - BY MELISSA JENK­INS Melissa.jenk­

I want to feel like my time there made a dif­fer­ence. I may not be in Hon­duras for long, but I am be­ing given the amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity to pos­i­tively touch many peo­ple’s lives while I will be there.

Erin Dwyer

There are some things young peo­ple get the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence that may only hap­pen once in their life­time.

For Har­bour Grace na­tive Erin Dwyer, an up­com­ing trip to Hon­duras might qual­ify.

The 26-year-old Me­mo­rial Uni­ver­sity med­i­cal school stu­dent will be pack­ing her bags and fly­ing to a ru­ral area in the Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­try with a group of 44 other vol­un­teers – in­clud­ing 10 med stu­dents – for a pro­gram called Global Brigades.

“I want to feel like my time there made a dif­fer­ence,” Dwyer told The Compass in a re­cent in­te­view.

“I may not be in Hon­duras for long, but I am be­ing given the amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity to pos­i­tively touch many peo­ple’s lives while I will be there.”

The group is an in­ter­na­tional non-profit that helps com­mu­ni­ties reach health and eco­nomic goals through vol­un­teer work in­volv­ing teams.

The MUN Global Brigades group leaves in July to par­tic­i­pate in a med­i­cal-den­tal brigade. It will set up a mo­bile clinic where pa­tients will be able to ac­cess a doc­tor or den­tist and ob­tain medicine from a phar­ma­cist. It will also in­clude a women’s health clinc and an ed­u­ca­tional ses­sion on oral hy­giene.

The trip

Dwyer and her coun­ter­parts, which also in­cludes nurs­ing and phar­macy stu­dents, will be in Hon­duras July 8-16. Along with the strug­gles of work­ing in a for­eign coun­try, she will ex­pe­ri­ence an av­er­age tem­per­a­ture of around 30 C daily.

But the tem­per­a­ture doesn’t bother her. She just wants to help peo­ple.

The adventure doesn’t just help with med­i­cal and den­tal is­sues. There will also be a group from MUN tak­ing part in a wa­ter brigade to help set up sus­tain­able clean wa­ter sys­tems in a ru­ral com­mu­nity, Dwyer said.

The web­site for the trip says that 40 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion of Hon­duras lacks ac­cess to safe wa­ter, and 60 per cent live be­low the poverty line.

Chang­ing ca­reers

Dwyer has al­ready spent sev­eral years work­ing in the en­gi­neer­ing field.

Grad­u­at­ing from Hal­i­fax’s Dal­housie Uni­ver­sity in 2011 with a Bach­e­lor in Chem­i­cal En­gi­neer­ing, she left Canada and headed south to sunny Louisiana.

“Af­ter I spent a few years work­ing as an en­gi­neer and fig­ur­ing out it wasn’t for me any­more, I de­cided to go back to my Plan A, which was medicine,” she ex­plained. “So last Au­gust, I re­turned home to start the Doc­tor of Medicine pro­gram at MUN.”

Although she ex­pe­ri­enced many mile­stones work­ing away, there was a part of her that she felt was miss­ing.

“The rea­son I al­ways wanted to be­come a doc­tor was to help peo­ple – as cliché as that may sound – and that was ac­tu­ally what I was miss­ing in my life as an en­gi­neer,” she said. “I al­ways had an in­ter­est in bring­ing my skills to other parts of the world … and help­ing those who would ap­pre­ci­ate any­thing and ev­ery­thing.”

Dwyer was a mem­ber of En­gi­neers with­out Bor­ders (EWB) dur­ing her un­der­grad pro­gram at Dal. EWB gives en­gi­neers, and those in train­ing, a chance to help de­vel­op­ing na­tions round the world use and un­der­stand tech­nol­ogy to bet­ter their lives.

With this new path in her life, Dwyer hopes to work in pe­di­atrics, but has not de­cided defini­tively what she wants to do.

“I’m keep­ing an open mind and shad­ow­ing a wide range of spe­cial­ties,” she ex­plained.

Dwyer’s younger brother Chris, who grad­u­ated in 2008, also at­tends MUN med school in the same class as his sis­ter.


Many who have known Dwyer through school would con­firm she is a good fit for the doc­tor pro­fes­sion. She is smart and em­pa­thetic, but also strong. Th­ese qual­i­ties are go­ing to help her this jour­ney.

The trip, she ex­pects, will help her grow per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally.

Dwyer has to pay out of pocket for her ex­penses — ap­prox­i­mately $2,000 — and has de­cided to start fundrais­ing per­son­ally, as well with the group.

One of the fundrais­ers is a draw for some big prizes, in­clud­ing a first place prize of an iPad mini 3, an iTunes gift card, spa gift pack­age, a Bud­weiser hockey light and lots more. The value is over $2,200. There are three draws.

Those par­tic­i­pat­ing are also tak­ing di­rect dona­tions through an on­line site set up specif­i­cally for the brigade.


Erin Dwyer (left) of Har­bour Grace and her brother Chris are both med­i­cal school stu­dents at Me­mo­rial Uni­ver­sity.

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