Global Medical Brigades Bring Basic Health Care Abroad


By: Isabel Atkinson
Staff Writer

Photo by Isabel Atkinson

University of California Santa Barbara students involved in the Global Medical Brigades strive to make a difference beyond Isla Vista, our bubble of paradise with year-round sunshine and beach access. Last June, GMB medical professionals, nurses and UCSB students set up shop in Honduras to deliver much-needed health care to a local community. This summer, the organization has planned a trip to Ghana in order to administer the same kind of vital medical attention. With big hearts and open minds, the students who travel abroad with GMB gain unparalleled experience regarding the importance of global health.

In Honduras the natives received the GMB with enthusiasm, knowing the crucial impact the organization’s services have on the well-being of their people, and the professionals who go abroad with GMB are as equally excited. For some of the doctors these trips are their first time practicing in a foreign country, exposing them to a very different perspective on medical treatment. Members of GMB learn to adapt their medical practices by evaluating the lifestyles and work habits of the people in order to most effectively treat them.

“A real, inquisitive nature is the most important thing to bring with you,” said Vice President of Fundraising for UCSB’s GMB and fourth-year micro-biology major Steve Tilem.

Surprisingly, the unavoidable language barrier proves to hinder the process very little. In addition to the help of translators, both workers and patients learn to communicate through gestures and facial expressions. These interactions and the development of personal relationships add to the rich cultural experience of working with this organization.

President of UCSB’s GMB, fourth-year biological science major, Jaime Miller, found the deepening of her world understanding to be key for her future in the medical field as well as for the future of global health.

“[The experience] opened our eyes to what else is out there, and how much we have,” said Miller of the health care privileges in the United States.

The GMB uses these bountiful resources from the U.S. to effectively carry out their services. Over the course of four clinical days the doctors situated in Honduras treated 1,774 deserving patients. With the collaboration of the many branches of GMB the organization is able to reach a great deal more than that. The GMB also hopes to increase their impact through donations and fundraising because the greater availability of resources allows them to help a larger pool of people.

“Every donation purchases medication,” said Tilem, “We’re strict about that.”

The greater number of volunteers involved also expands GMB’s capabilities and the group encourages students to get involved and educate themselves about global issues like healthcare. Members all emphasize the rewards of the abroad experience.

“[Our] mission is to provide the access of health care to people that wouldn’t have it otherwise,” said GMB fundraising chair and second-year biology major Aditi Trivedi.

The Global Medical Brigades is a non-profit student-run organization that uses the talents of medical professionals and the dedication of volunteers in order to provide the health care around the world that everyone deserves, but does not necessarily receive. This key concept is the cornerstone of all the GMB’s ambitions. With only good intentions, the members of the Global Medical Brigades work towards achieving a healthier human race worldwide.