Health Initiative

After reviewing more than 120 applicants, nearly half were selected and announced Nov. 1 to participate in the 2015 Medical Brigade to Panama, orchestrated by the Jayhawk Health Initiative.

Applicants aren’t required to be pre-med, and are chosen based on how well their essay question answers satisfy the objectives of this group’s mission, said Leigh Loving, senior and founder of Jayhawk Health Initiative.

Now that these students have been selected, they will begin taking classes next semester to learn basic Spanish. Additionally, they will learn how to take vitals and plan the specifics of the trip.

Loving created the group after traveling to Guatemala for a mission trip her freshman year.

The Jayhawk Health Initiative is specifically dedicated to giving students who are interested in both medicine and service the opportunity to volunteer abroad. These students work in mobile-clinics and provide medical and dental care to the indigenous people living in rural Panama.

Since its creation, Jayhawk Health Initiative has gone on one medical brigade per year to Panama, with help from “Global Brigades” and “Heart to Heart International.”

This year, Loving is focusing on preparing the future leaders of the group, due to her graduating in just a few months.

This years brigade to Panama will be from May 17-May 23.

Jena Klaas, a freshman from Piper, was one of the 50 candidates chosen for the 2015 brigade.

Klaas found out about Jayhawk Health Initiative through her resident assistant. After attending a meeting, she thought the trip would tie in perfectly with her community health major.

“I’m most excited for working directly with the patients,” Klaas said. “There aren’t many other opportunities for trips where you get to do that. I’m also excited to educate them on different aspects of health to hopefully improve their lives in the future.”

As they have in the past, the brigade will last a week starting May 17 with students’ days already planned out.

Upon their arrival in Panama, the group organizes all of the medications and prepares the clinic for the upcoming three days that are delegated to working it. Loving said Jayhawk Health Initiative, with help from other groups, supplies the entire thing.

Within the clinic are a multitude of stations: triage, dental, consult and pharmacy, delegating a wide range of responsibilities to the volunteers.

Before they return home, volunteers also get to experience a day of culture in Panama. Each year, they do something different. In the past, the group has gone on hikes and visited local market places and schoolhouses.

“We were able to play with the schoolchildren during their morning break,” said Morgan Klug, a senior from Wichita who went on one of the previous year’s trips. “We taught them how to play ‘When I’m Gone’ with plastic cups and played soccer with them. Later in the afternoon we were able to go to a community market where the women of the community brought crafts, clothes, jewelry and other small items to sell. The women also taught us some traditional Panamanian folk dances.”

Loving said upon returning home, everyone has a renewed sense of gratitude for everything they have.

— Edited by Ben Carroll