Medical Service and Mission Trips


This topic is very close to my heart. Some of my best experiences of my life to date have been having the opportunity to take two out of the country service trips while in undergraduate school at the University of Missouri. I believe most schools have similar opportunities for those interested in service and medicine!

Service trips are not only a HUGE way to make your application stand out among the masses, but they really give you a life changing perspective that will help you in the long run in the health care field, in general, and definitely as a Physician Assistant. A lot of PA schools pride themselves in compiling a diverse class, and something I’ve learned is that although diversity includes simple things that you can’t control like ethnicity, socioeconomic background, etc., it also includes diverse mindsets and life experiences.

My first service trip was to Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic. I went with a group that included all Health Sciences students and we were serving a rural underserved community by tutoring and teaching English to Spanish as a first language elementary and middle school students. Although this experience wasn’t directly related to health, it opened my eyes to so many different factors that contribute to someone’s lifestyle. They didn’t have hot water, electricity was not guaranteed, and plumbing was an entirely different issue but these kids were so filled with joy from simple things like playing basketball with us at recess. It allowed me to realize how little we need in order to be happy and how caught up we become in such an industrialized nation like the United States.

My second service trip was to Cape Town, South Africa. I went with a group that included students majoring in health related fields and it was considered a Public Health Internship. We served at a primary school and mainly volunteered by cleaning, organizing, and tutoring the students. We were also able to volunteer within the community with the University of Western Cape’s nursing students. A pivotal part of this trip is when we were talking with some of the community members about healthcare in South Africa and they stated that they would “rather die” than get treated in a public hospital, even if it were an emergency. This conversation shocked me because I never realized healthcare could be so bad that it could truly scare people away. This moment is where I began to self reflect on what I wanted to do in the healthcare field and I realized that I wanted to dedicate myself in serving the underserved populations in some sort of way through medicine, whether it’s my primary job or through community involvement.

If you’re at all looking at taking a medical mission or service trip prior to PA school, I would highly highly recommend you consider it because I know that my experiences have changed my life for the better! I also think that these unique experiences helped me stand out in the application process and allowed the schools to really see what I am passionate about.

If you have any questions about service trips or about my specific trips at all, please reach out! I would be more than happy to help if at all possible.

6 thoughts on “Medical Service and Mission Trips

  1. Do you know of any service programs that will allow me to start doing service like this early in my undergraduate year? I’m a freshman, and most of the programs at my school, require students to be an underclassmen. I’ve heard of Gap Medics, but I’m not sure if that is truly legit. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ayanna! Unfortunately no, I believe that most schools wait until at least a sophomore standing in order to travel abroad. I think they do this to make sure students have declared a major, are sticking to that major, etc.
      At my school, the health science programs required sophomore status. We also had a completely separate organization called “Mizzou Alternative Break” that allowed students of any age to apply to go on a service trip during spring break, winter break, thanksgiving break, etc. within the continental US and a couple outside of the US in an area that you were interested in, like global health for example. I’m not sure how big your school is, but look out for smaller organizations like that.
      I have heard of Gap Medics but I do not know anyone who has experience with them that I could offer advice. If possible, I would ask your advisor/counselor about gap medics if you’re aching to get started now – they are likely to have more information. Otherwise, I would try to focus in on one trip you’d want to take once you reach the required class standing for your university. I’d make sure you meet the requirements, GPA, letters of recommendation, application deadline, and whatever else they may ask for because for a sophomore year trip they should be asking for those things from you relatively soon!
      Goodluck goodluck goodluck and I hope you get to go somewhere amazing and make a difference whether small or big. Get excited for an experience of a lifetime : )

      Like

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