Be The Good: Megan Mormile

REED’s Be The Good recently supported Megan Mormile’s work in Peru with International Medical Relief, an organization that provides access to public health education and medical services to underserved and vulnerable communities globally. Her time in Peru was spent bringing healthcare access to a community in need through medical and dental care. Read more about Megan’s experience in this Q&A:

Trigger warning: mention of domestic violence

Why did you decide to go on this trip?

I decided to go on this trip to expand my medical experience before continuing my education. It was important to me to diversify my training, and I’ve wanted to volunteer in a developing nation for a long time. Helping those in need and serving on medical mission trips in underserved communities is something I plan on doing for years to come.

What is one thing you experienced during the service trip that stuck out?

On this trip, I learned that happiness is all around us — you can find it in the simplest things. The Peruvian people were some of the friendliest and most unwaveringly happy people I’ve ever met, despite them having comparatively fewer resources than what is available in the United States. It made me step back and think about how grateful I am to have access to necessities such as healthcare, clean running water and nutritious food.

One patient that stuck out to me was an elderly Quechuan woman who had come to our clinic with a wound on her left leg. She had previously visited her local hospital to have skin grafting and suturing to close and treat the wound; however, she was never able to return to the hospital and have the sutures removed because she was unable to pay for the service. We removed the sutures and provided wound care for the injury and the donor site for the skin graft on her right leg and sent her home with a clean wound and three weeks of supplies to continue self-care. She broke into tears as we were helping her, and I will never forget how it felt to know that you are positively impacting someone’s life.

What did a typical day look like while you were on this trip?

I spent the first few days of my trip sightseeing and exploring Cusco, including visiting Machu Picchu and the Rainbow Mountains; both were breathtaking!

After that, I met up with the team I would be working with, organized through International Medical Relief (IMR), and the bond we created was instantaneous. Our four days in the clinic started at 6:30 in the morning to have breakfast, pack our bus and travel to our clinic site. We traveled to a new town 1-2 hours outside Cusco each day. Once we arrived, we began setting up a clinic with various stations for patients to visit and receive acute medical care. After they registered, patients would move to community education. The main goal of International Medical Relief is to sustain and build up the communities we visit; part of that is educating patients on how to lead healthier lives moving forward. We offered classes on hand washing, teeth brushing, stretching and maintaining a proper diet. Next, the patients would proceed to triage; this is where I primarily worked for the duration of the clinic. Patients would have their vital signs taken, and we would record chief complaints, allergies, etc. Following triage, patients would see a medical provider, a dentist or both if necessary.

Our team of 17 volunteers comprised a general practice physician, a wound care specialist, a dermatology PA and four dentists. Over the four days of clinic, we saw over 500 patients with varying diagnoses. The most common ailments were arthritis, body aches, glaucoma and gastrointestinal issues. The team provided tooth extractions, dental and physical exams, over-the-counter and prescription medications, and training for at-home physical therapy.

What was your favorite part of your time in Cusco, Peru?

My favorite part of the trip was connecting with the Peruvian people; everyone was kind and welcoming. They were incredibly grateful for even the small amount of medical care we could provide in our short time there.

I also enjoyed building relationships with my teammates and the local translators. It was an exceptional experience to form friendships with people from around the United States who all had a similar passion for medicine and service.

What was the most humbling experience of this trip?

I think the most humbling experience of this trip was when I heard the story of an older woman who came to our dermatology table expressing lower back pain and hearing loss in her right ear. 

This was caused by domestic abuse. The patient explained to us that her husband used to beat her, and the attacks had lasting impacts. Her husband has since become disabled, so he no longer hurts her; however, this patient interaction demonstrates the harsh reality of domestic violence and its impact on communities that have so little. It also illustrates how healthcare can go beyond treatment for physical symptoms. It also includes emotional and spiritual care. 

We often must look at the more overarching issues in someone’s life to treat the patient as a whole. Overall, the entire trip was an incredible experience. I learned so much about global medicine, and I can’t wait to travel and volunteer with IMR again in the future.