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Abstract

Like many disadvantaged countries around the world, Nicaragua is visited by numerous medical missions each year. The efficacy of these missions relies on the organization’s relationship with the communities they serve. Although the general goal of all medical missions is to ultimately help underserved populations, many missions inadvertently do harm. Two critical causes of such inadvertent harm are lack of sustainable practices and failure to form a long-term relationship with the communities. Shenandoah University’s Physician Assistant Program has worked tirelessly to form an ideal medical mission model and relationship with El Ayudante, a local non-government humanitarian organization, and the local Ministry of Health. Since 2004, a medical team has been sent annually to care for the Nicaraguan people in the communities surrounding El Auydante. These rural communities have limited medical resources and limited access to care. A mere 31.5% of the female population is screened for cervical cancer. Likely a result, Nicaragua currently has the highest incidence of cervical cancer in Latin America. In addition to cervical cancer, these women have other concerns related to women’s health that have never been addressed by a healthcare provider. This is where Shenandoah’s women’s health team has had an important role. Ideally, this can be an example for other health professions and programs to adopt a similar model and include a women’s health team on their medical missions. This reflection shares my personal experiences and perspectives on this issue.

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