Med student helping in Honduras
Harbour Grace native to participate in mobile clinic in Central America
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.
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.
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.
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.