Global Medical Brigades provide invaluable experience to BGSU students

University chapter founded by a pair of pre-med students


By Kari Toncre

A group of students will travel to Honduras in the summer of 2019 to volunteer in a medical brigade through the Global Medical Brigades chapter at Bowling Green State University. While in Honduras, students will have the opportunity to assist with medical procedures for people in need of medical attention living in poor communities.

article2BGSU’s Global Medical Brigades chapter was founded by seniors Julia Gallatin and Matheus Moreira Sanches Peraci, both pre-medicine and applied health science majors in the spring of 2014. The pair heard about Global Medical Brigades at other universities and wanted to start a chapter at BGSU.

The group traveled to Nicaragua for their first brigade in 2017 and Honduras for the first time this past summer. It is truly an eye-opening experience for the people who sign up to go.

“I traveled to Honduras for a brigade with three people who had never gone on one before,” Gallatin said. “Experiences like this completely change you, and it’s amazing to see it happen to someone else.”

One of the most exciting duties is working with the doctors in patient rooms. Volunteers also can package medication, work with children and provide a helping hand to the people in these communities. Some clinics have dental and optometry units. 

article4“These kids, who have never been able to see clearly before, would walk into our vision clinic,” Gallatin said. “They would receive a pair of glasses and be able to see for the first time. Their reactions were amazing.”

Being able to interact and work with the people in these countries allows for the volunteers to learn about the culture and their own lives as well how to perform certain medical duties. 

“One can never learn enough and understand enough about other people’s cultures and dramatically different life stories without directly interacting with them,” Peraci said.

Everyone is trained by the medical staff currently stationed in the country and who work with Global Brigades. Global Medical Brigades is a small segment of the international Global Brigades organization. University chapters work with the organization to plan the trips.

Chapters pick a country where a brigade is established. Active brigades are currently in Ghana and Honduras, and the BGSU chapter voted to go back to Honduras. 

Global Brigades provide shelter, food and the clinic, along with supplies, but the university chapters pay for it. Any money raised for a brigade goes towards medication, salaries for the doctors working in the clinics, anything else that is needed for the overall prep and logistics of a brigade. The money is also used for hygiene kits to be given away to the people in the communities. 

Fundraising, grants and University funds allow BGSU’s Global Medical Brigades to be able to pay for the majority of the expenses when going on trips.

article5“As one of the co-founders, seeing the chapter succeed and leading it for almost two years has been incredible to experience,” Peraci said. “Because of that, almost all aspects for Global Medical Brigades, from fundraising to being in a brigade, bring me joy and fulfillment.”  

Anyone can join Global Medical Brigades, no matter their major.  

Global Medical Brigades is just one part of a brigade. Within Global Brigades, there are business, dental, engineering, environmental, human rights, medical, public health and water brigades.

A brigade is placed in countries such as Ghana and Honduras for a long period of time. Depending on the community’s situation, different brigades will be sent in.

Medical brigades are always sent in first to record what kind of diseases and health problems the people living there are suffering from. They can figure out where the people have gotten the disease and send in another brigade to work towards fixing the issue.

Some of the health problems come from a lack of clean drinking water, so Global Brigades will have an engineering brigade come up with a plan to solve the issue and a water brigade will be sent to implement, usually by installing a waterline. 

Learn more about BGSU’s Global Medical Brigade and/or to contribute to its fundraising efforts