Rowan medical student set to bring positive 'ripple' to Haiti

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By Phil Davis, South Jersey Times - For one second-year medical student at RowanSOM, her typical Tuesday afternoon class didn't end with an exam or with working on a group project. Instead, it ended with her clutching an oversized boarding pass to Port Au Prince, Haiti.

By Phil Davis, South Jersey Times

STRATFORD - For one second-year medical student at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine (RowanSOM), her typical Tuesday afternoon class didn’t end with an exam or with working on a group project.

Instead, it ended with her clutching an oversized boarding pass to Port Au Prince, Haiti, where she’ll be stationed as a medical volunteer in about two months.

When she submitted her entry a week before the deadline, Meghan Meghpara, a 24-year-old second-year medical student from Parsippany, didn’t expect to win the “Ripple Effect Contest,” sponsored by medical supply company WelchAllyn and the international nonprofit organization Heart to Heart International.

She and 34 others were all in the running to win the contest, which had medical students submit videos or essay entries about the kind of “ripple effect” they would have if they were sent on a one-week mission to assist at one of Heart to Heart International’s 14 clinics in Haiti.

Now, she and Oluwatoni Aluko, a second-year Meharry Medical College student in Nashville, Tenn., will be flying to Haiti in hopes of making a difference at overseas clinics.

Representatives of Heart to Heart and WelchAllyn surprised Meghpara at her RowanSOM class Tuesday afternoon, showing her video as the winning entry in front of a class numbering more than 100 students.

“I had no video (editing) skills. I just made a Powerpoint,” said Meghpara. “I just submitted that on a whim and I was hoping that no one would have to watch it.”

Steve Hower, the director of Corporate Relations for Heart to Heart International, said the nonprofit is looking to expand their reach with medical facilities overseas, offering students like Meghpara a chance to get her feet wet in the world of international medicine.

“It’s all about access to health care,” said Hower of their 14 facilities in Haiti. “They could walk two to three or even four hours just to see a doctor.”

Doctors in the region battle to stay up-to-date with today’s modern medicine, commonly having trouble treating easily manageable medical conditions like hypertension, or high blood pressure, according to David Allyn, the director of Corporate Social Responsibility and Medical Education Program for WelchAllyn.

With WelchAllyn paying for medical equipment expenses through a credit given to Heart to Heart International, Allyn said the hope of both groups is not only for the students to get some international experience, but also bring some of their expertise to physicians in Haiti.

“They check with the non-profit (Heart to Heart International) and let’s say they’re going to Kenya. They say ‘We’re going to Kenya, we need an automatic blood pressure device and we need (electrocardiograms),’” said Allyn. “They then call Heart to Heart and ask if there’s still this credit available and then they get the product for free. The students then brings the equipment with the group that travels to Kenya and they, hopefully, train the staff there in Kenya.”

But for Meghpara, who’s planning to focus on pediatrics when she gradutes, she said she’s most looking forward to working with her other staff members in Haiti.

“I’ve never gone to a place like that. I’ve been to Costa Rica,” said Meghpara. “I’m really hoping to learn from the doctors that are there.”

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