Story by Sarah Goff
Six Union pharmacy students spent a week this summer as part of a medical mission team that served in Cairo, Egypt. The students — Bailee Esch, Hunter Hanson, Payton Pulse, Firas Quran, Brooke Sanders and Ali Ward — spent four days working in medical clinics, each day in a different local Christian church, as well as spending two days sightseeing during their July 12-21 trip.
On the very first day of clinic, Pulse, a second-year Doctor of Pharmacy candidate from Bolivar, Tennessee, met a mother and her three children. The first two children had common, easily treatable cases of parasites. The mother expressed concern for her youngest child, a small 3-year-old boy who was sleeping in her arms. A few months ago, she explained, he had undergone surgery for an intestinal issue.
She then showed them his incision: it had burst open, and his intestines were protruding from his abdomen. Shocked, the team worked quickly to get the family to the emergency room.
“My heart hurt for this family, but at the same time it was bursting at the seams with happiness because we helped make an impact on someone, and possibly saved a life just by using our skills God blessed us with,” Pulse wrote in a blog post about the day.
This trip was the culmination of the Medical Missions class taught by Adrian Cross, adjunct professor of pharmacy practice at Union and registered store manager at the Walgreens Community Specialty Pharmacy on Skyline Drive in Jackson. This trip was in partnership with Englewood Baptist Church of Jackson, where Cross has been a member for 24 years. The mission team consisted of a veterinarian, dentist, schoolteacher and pharmacist in addition to the pharmacy students.
A local Christian ministry in Cairo helped set up the clinics, provide translators and bring in patients. The medical mission team offered an eyeglasses station, pharmacy stations, a health education station and a station to entertain waiting children.
In the Egyptian healthcare context, the role of a pharmacist is different than in the United States — they are the ones who diagnose common issues and then send the patient to the local pharmacy, where they dispense the needed medication. This was an answer to prayer, Pulse said, since the team did not include a doctor or nurse who typically would have examined and diagnosed patients.
This made the trip different from his 16 years of medical missions experience, Cross said. They were able to interact more with the patients and pray with them, too.
For Pulse, this trip was out of her comfort zone. She had never been outside the U.S. before and had never even considered going on an international mission trip. Although it is easy for pharmacy students to be consumed with their studies, she said it is important to venture out and experience new things.
“It’s definitely impacted the way I look at these disease states that we’re learning about and look at the drugs that treat them,” Pulse said. “It makes you appreciate what you’re learning and appreciate the patients you’re going to be helping more.”
Cross said he loves to see young professionals get involved in missions and use their talents to help people. He encourages students who feel called to go on a medical mission trip to pray about serving.
“If you go and you make yourself available, God will use you in ways that you would never imagine, and I think that happened this year with each one of the students,” he said.
Learn more about Union’s College of Pharmacy at uu.edu/pharmacy.