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NEW WILMINGTON, Pa.– For the third year in a row, associate professor of Spanish Dr. Joel Postema and a few Westminster students traveled to the Dominican Republic for a medical mission trip. During the week-long trip, seniors and pre-medical students Madison Ordonez, Katelynn Morrell and Bridget Herlihy had the opportunity to work in clinics, shadowing and providing assistance to medical professionals in their future career fields.

This educational excursion, led by Postema, is part of a larger mission partnership between the New Wilmington Presbyterian Church and the Iglesia Evangélica Dominicana in the small community of Sabaneta de Yásica, Dominican Republic. The 25-year partnership supports the ministry efforts of the community through annual, week-long trips that facilitate youth programs, participate in community construction and provide assistance to medical professionals and clinics. Westminster students who participate in these excursions gain first-hand experience in their future professions, working with pharmacists, doctors and physical therapists in Dominican clinics.

Each year, the students also develop a research project to be conducted during the trip. This year, they studied the average Dominican’s understanding of mosquito-transmitted diseases. In the past, students have researched Dominican perceptions of healthcare, Dominican pharmaceuticals and access to medicine. Students will present their research at the annual Undergraduate Research and Arts Celebration (URAC).

After several years of involvement himself, Postema recognized the opportunity for educational development for his students through the medical mission trips. In 2016 he invited four pre-medical students (three with Spanish minors) to participate in the annual trip. Despite the language barrier and minor roadblocks encountered, the students considered the experience a success and three of them returned the following year to continue their research.

The success of the medical mission trips drove Postema to think about ways to include non-medical students. Last May, Postema and Dr. Sararose Lynch, along with two education students who are also majoring in Spanish traveled to the Dominican Republic to evaluate a potential partnership with a Dominican school that would create opportunities for Westminster’s education students. Postema and Lynch will be returning with five more students this May to continue the partnership with Dominican students and teachers.

Though drastically different in focus, the goals of the two trips are similar: to provide students with an educational opportunity to experience first-hand their fields of study outside of the U.S.

“It is my hope that through these opportunities, Westminster is helping to form students who will become the very finest educators and medical professionals – top-notch doctors, pharmacists, therapists and teachers who also have a global understanding and a commitment to humanitarian efforts,” Postema said.

For more information, contact Dr. Joel Postema at postemjt@westminster.edu. Check back soon for feature stories from the students’ perspectives and updates on the May trip to the Dominican Republic.

Written by Vanessa Restifo

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