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Global Medical Training Lends a Hand to Developing Countries
From left, fourth-year psychology student Jae Ham, fourth-year biology student Mike Kim, and fourth-year psychobiology student Arthur Roh huddle with a local volunteer translator in Nicaragua and examine a patient. (Photo courtesy of Yang Yu)

Global Medical Training Lends a Hand to Developing Countries

The nonprofit group's UCLA branch made its first service trip last spring break, to Nicaragua, The Daily Bruin reports.

It is the most gratifying thing you will ever do.

UCLA Daily Bruin

By Adrienne Law, Bruin contributor

FUNDRAISING on campus and service trips abroad are some of the ways UCLA Global Medical Training participants can volunteer to help developing countries that lack sufficient health care.

Members of Global Medical Training at UCLA go on service trips to countries such as Panama and Nicaragua and invite students of any academic background to join, said Yang Yu, the founder and president of Global Medical Training at UCLA and a fourth-year biology student.

Last year, Yu brought Global Medical Training to UCLA after contacting the creator of this nonprofit organization and verifying its credibility. The student group's first trip was to Nicaragua last spring break, she said.

"We guarantee 100 percent patient interaction," Yu said, adding that Global Medical Training at UCLA offers medical, dental and veterinary service trips.

Duc Tran, a third-year neuroscience student and the treasurer of the club, said his first medical service trip was life-changing. He said he did not expect to experience hands-on medical service to local Nicaraguans.

Tran said he was initially nervous about diagnosing patients.

"Doctors guide us and give us some hints. They kind of facilitate," Tran said. "A lot of it is on us to do the diagnosis."

By the end of the week, Tran said he was able to diagnose the patient in a group by himself without the help of other students.

However, he was required to present the diagnosis to and receive confirmation from a doctor.

Besides serving abroad, there are opportunities at UCLA.

UCLA students can organize fundraisers for patients in developing nations who cannot afford medical care. Raising just $2000 to $3000 is enough to pay for the surgery of 10 kids, said Dr. Babak Azizzadeh, a UCLA alumnus who is involved in various nonprofit organization with medical service trips. He is currently a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills.

On campus, Global Medical Training participates in fundraising activities such as root-beer float and boba sales to get money for medical materials and for their trips, she said.

But actually being abroad and serving many patients does not compare to volunteering in the UCLA bubble, Yu said.

UCLA student volunteers on Global Medical Training trips serve patients at a local and public venue, such as a church, and see the desperate need of health care in the underserved countries, Tran said.

During their trip to Nicaragua, there was a line that went down the street for the whole day, Tran said.

If students begin growing their passion towards helping the disadvantaged at an early age, it could further inspire them to serve throughout medical school and residency, Azzizadeh said.

Another inspirational as well as memorable experience in service trip involvements are the patients, Tran said.

"This is the reason why you want to get into medicine," Azzizadeh added. "It is the most gratifying thing you will ever do."

Tran said the patients are are very grateful that the students are there to give free health services to them. Sometimes they would even give the students hugs, Tran said.

"(Interacting with the patients) is really an exchange of what money can't do," Yu said.

Yu added that medical service trips also drive students' selfless personalities, which is necessary in order to successfully treat patients.

Many volunteer students want to be doctors not for the money, but to give, Yu said. Some are not even pre-health and are simply involved to help, she added.

"I think the best part of the trip is meeting the UCLA students with the same passion (as me)," Tran said.

Upon seeing the need of health care in underprivileged countries, trips can motivate academics, he added.

Tran said that volunteering for Global Medical Training is a very different and interesting type of learning compared to UCLA classes.

After the trip, Tran added that he realized that being a doctor appeared to be unrelated to his organic chemistry and life sciences classes. He added that he was a little disappointed to resume school and study concepts that seem to not really be for doctors.

But he said he was ready to study hard so he can become a doctor and volunteer for an international nonprofit medical organization.

"It makes you want to do better in school and not be lazy," Yu said. "They (volunteers) have that goal in mind."

UCLA International Institute