For over 22 years, Dr. Carl Ross and teams of nursing students from Duquesne University and Robert Morris University School of Nursing and Health Sciences, based in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, have had major impacts on many of the communities in Nicaragua. Dr. Ross was recently honored by Universidad de Politechnica (UPOLI) in Managua, Nicaragua. During his 100th trip UPOLI honored Dr. Ross during a celebratory program and he was awarded with the highest honors. Dr. Ross stated, “the U.S. is the country of my birth, but Nicaragua is the country that God gave me to love.”
Gran Pacifica has had a relationship with Dr. Ross and the RMU groups for many years. During a medical mission visit in 2007, Ross met Elkin Zapata, who needed an operation that wasn’t available in Nicaragua. So, he invited Elkin and his grandmother, Miriam, to stay with him in the U.S. for two months while he received a life-saving surgery. Last month, Gran Pacifica was able to re-unite Dr. Ross and Elkin’s family while he and a group of 30 nursing students returned to Nicaragua.
This year their medical mission was to work in the community of San Diego and at the new Roberto Clemente III Medical Clinic. With the help of the Gran Pacifica staff, they chose six families in the community of San Diego to work with intensively. The nursing students were required to do physical and developmental exams of the entire family, and also an environmental assessment. This provided them with cross-cultural competency and “experiential learning” combined with classroom knowledge. Dr. Ross estimates that the value of services and goods donated to the community of San Diego was approximately $6,000 USD. This included: medications, diagnostic exams, a new roof and kitchen, clothing, and assorted items.
The team also served community members of San Diego and California by working at the new Roberto Clemente III Medical Clinic at Gran Pacifica. They performed joint injections, ear flushing, and physicals. They served approximately 250 patients in their 4-day stay. They also donated $537 in medical equipment to the Clinic which helped to purchase three exam tables.
With all of the work to do, there was still a little time for some fun between seeing patients. The team enjoyed entertaining the children with bubble blowing, water pistols, balloons, and face painting. The patients waiting also had lots of fun laughing at all the horseplay going on around them. About ¾ of the team, mostly “millennials”, had never been to Nicaragua. Angelina Applin, a first timer, said, “I would come back here in a heartbeat!”
Jean Howell, a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner student, took everything in stride, including the tour bus getting stuck in the mud one day. When it’s rainy season in Nicaragua, there may be times you will have to change your schedule a bit! However, with the assistance of a tractor and an extra push by some of the students, the bus was on its way again. Of course, the incident made for a few extra laughs along the way.
On the last day of work, the team hosted a fiesta at the Clinic, which included a piñata for the children. This was a special time for the students and families to share together. Prior to leaving for the medical mission, Dr. Ross told the students that their relationships will grow from “stranger to family” by the end of the mission. Many students agreed they did indeed feel a family connection. At the end of the evening, Dr. Ross thanked all the staff and families and said good-byes, while many students listened with tears in their eyes. Dr. Wentling, who also accompanied Dr. Ross stated, “the Nicaraguan trips are by far some of the best experiences of my life.”
Steve Foreman, another team member, was very taken by how outgoing people were in Nicaragua, and the spirit they had for living life. He thought the students were getting more out of the mission than what they were giving.
After the mission was complete, the whole group enjoyed the facilities at Gran Pacifica Resort. There was great food at SeaSalt Restaurante, a slip ‘n slide, group contests in the pool, and a DJ providing dance music at Meatgrinders Lounge.
Dr. Ross reported that during the Dec. 9th Nursing Graduation Ceremony in Pittsburg, all students who participated in the Nicaraguan /Gran Pacifica experience acknowledged that the experience was by far the most meaningful during their nursing education and it changed their life for the better.
We congratulate the continued medical missions and cross-cultural learning trips by Dr. Ross. We are looking forward to hosting the 101st trip!