Thirty students from Samuel Merritt University (SMU) will spend a few days during their Spring Break to run a free healthcare clinic in a small town near the U.S.-Mexico border.
The March 16-18 trip marks the ninth consecutive year that SMU podiatric students have led the visit to San Ysidro, a border town between San Diego and Tijuana considered one of the busiest land border-crossing areas in the Western Hemisphere.
Most of the 150 or so patients who attend the clinic each year lack access to healthcare, said Dr. Carlos J. Correa Bernier, Director of Education and Immersions Programs at the San Ysidro Centro Romero, which hosts the event.
Here's a video from the 2015 San Ysidro trip:
The patients range from young children to elderly, and some cross the border from Mexico just to seek care, Correa Bernier said. SMU’s annual visit was often the only time residents received any healthcare treatment.
“Many people feel oppressed that we don’t have services here,” Correa Bernier said. “We don’t have a clinic in the community; we don’t have a hospital in the community. Many of them don’t get any medical care throughout the year, especially the elderly. So by your school coming here with the students to San Ysidro, it’s the only opportunity that many of them will take care of the problems they’re facing.”
For third-year podiatry student Morgan Garcia, the opportunity to treat underserved patients in a clinical setting expands her healthcare education beyond the classroom.
“It’s great to apply what you’ve learned in the classroom in the clinic,” Garcia said. “Things don’t always work as expected, so you learn more by working with real patients, with real problems. The residents there are also so grateful to see you, so it’s an added bonus to know you’re doing something that makes a real difference in people’s lives.”
Dallas Valerio, also a third-year podiatry student, said he hoped to continue working with underserved communities after graduation.
“No matter what I specialize in, I always want to take the time to reach out and work in underserved communities, whether they’re abroad or within our borders.”
Along with the 25 podiatry students, five nursing students in the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program will also attend, giving SMU students an opportunity to work in an interdisciplinary professional setting, just as they will after graduation.
The SMU team also distributes donated shoes, socks and orthotic inserts. Some patients return each year and show their thanks by cooking for the SMU students and faculty clinicians.
The students are also collecting donations, hoping to reach $5,000 for supplies, airfare, and lodging expenses. To donate, click on the following link and search for the “CSPM Student Medical Mission Project” option.