Wellesley Students Help Bring Medical Care to More Than 1,000 Patients in Need

December 8, 2008
Molly Tarantino,

WELLESLEY, Mass. -- They may not be doctors yet, but five members of the Wellesley College Hippocratic Society can already say they’ve helped bring medical care to more than 1,000 patients in need. On Nov. 13, the group of neuroscience and biology majors, led by DaEun (Dana) Im ’10 and including Sana Aslam ’10, Rosalind Lai ’11, Lauren Eby ’10 and Tania Dhawan ’11, embarked on a medical mission trip to Tijuana, Mexico. There, they set up a makeshift clinic, where they worked alongside volunteers from the California-based non-profit organization Healing Hearts Across Borders (HHAB) to provide health checkups and dental services to underprivileged Mexican families.

After coming across the HHAB web site during the summer, Im contacted Dr. Kevin Lake, who heads up the organization. When Lake invited the Wellesley students to participate in the November service trip, they received sponsorship from Wellesley’s Center for Work and Service to fund their travel.

Before departing for Mexico, the group collaborated with the Wellesley College Pre-Dental Society to secure a donation of more than 400 toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste from the Office of Oral Health in the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. With help from the Wellesley Neuroscience and Spanish departments, along with other sources, Im and her team also raised enough money to purchase more than 500 coloring books to distribute among the children visiting the Tijuana clinic.

During the weekend, volunteers provided medical care at two locations: Colonia Grupo Mexico and Colonia Obrera, a poverty-stricken village by the Tijuana garbage dump. There, the Wellesley students and HHAB staff saw as many as 600 patients each day. They helped load trucks with boxes of medicine and supplies; packed bags of vitamin supplements to distribute to families; registered patients and recorded their medical concerns; and even held a flashlight to assist the on-site dentist conducting oral exams and tooth removals.

HHAB, a grass-roots organization focused on uniting American medical staff and volunteers to provide free medical care to the needy, makes four annual trips to set up clinics in Tijuana. Yet still, Im said her trip made clear how seldom the people of Tijuana get the help they need.

“It was just so shocking to see how thankful the locals were for our work,” she said. “I firmly believe that destitute people in Tijuana should also be entitled to — and should also feel entitled to —  the very basic human right to obtain medical care, food and shelter.”

To read Im's blog from the trip and view more photos, click here.

Wellesley College has been a leader in the education of women for more than 130 years. The College's 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students from all 50 states and 65 countries.