What We Do
Medical Care |
Allied Health | Pharmacy |
Education | Assessing Needs |
Coordination & Cooperation with Other Groups |
The Glens Falls
Medical Mission Foundation began, in 1996, with a small
group of local physicians, a dentist, a pharmacist, and
others, who wanted to have an opportunity to give back
to an area in the developing world that was in real need
of ongoing medical care. Nueva Santa Rosa, a small
community about a two hour drive south of the Guatemalan
capital, was chosen, and the local Guatemalan Lions Club
became our sponsor and helper in our project. We have
now held more than 35 twice yearly week long missions to
the town of Nueva Santa Rosa in the last 19 years.
Typically, each mission consists of 40 or more
volunteers in the areas of medicine, nursing, dentistry,
EMT’s, translators, pharmacy, education, and general
volunteers. The missions are usually held in April or
May, and again in October.
Through the years, our project has expanded from a
purely medical one, to one that affects many aspects of
life in this area. It has become obvious to all of us
that providing only medical care is, quite literally, a
band-aid approach to the extensive needs of a community
that does not have even the most basic services of clean
water, sewage, emergency services, even a library. We
have had the great good fortune of the involvement of so
many of our friends and neighbors from the greater Glens
Falls community, from so many walks of life, that our
project has been able to expand in many important ways.
Our major emphasis remains a medical one. As you will
see from the list below, we have evolved into helping
the people of Nueva Santa Rosa area in other ways as
well. We hope that this expanded involvement will have a
long lasting impact on that area that treatment of acute
illness alone never could.
Medical care: As always, this is our first priority.
This is done through Triage and specialty clinics.
Triage is where patients are first seen, and their
medical needs prioritized. Some patients with straight
forward issues are screened by our nurses and EMT’s,
problems are identified, and they are sent straight to
the pharmacy for basic medications. Others are
identified as needing care in one of the specialty
General Medicine. This clinic cares for
all adults. They see issues ranging from degenerative
joint disease, hypertension and diabetes to undiagnosed
cancer. 6 month recalls are provided for those with
chronic hypertension or diabetes who depend on our
pharmacy for their medications. Public Health helps
to monitor these individuals between clinics. This clinic needs at least 4 providers:
physicians, PA’s, and NP’s.
Women’s Care. This clinic cares for all
women of child bearing age and with gyn problems. A
major service is providing birth control of various
types. At least 3 providers are needed, 4 is optimal.
Cooperation with a Guatemalan group called the Liga
Contra el Cancer has allowed us to offer pap smears and
follow up services as well. We feel this is a wonderful
cooperative effort, although this has added
significantly to our costs.
caries is rampant in this community. Our dentists
may pull over 1000 teeth during the 5 day clinic.
Lack of equipment, and numbers of patients that need
service, limits their ability to do any restorations
or fillings. Ideally, we should have 3 dentists,
which does not always happen. Fortunately, there are
some Guatemalan dentists that often come to donate
their time to help. Dental assistants and dental
students are also welcome to help in this clinic.
Pediatrics. We see children
from birth through age 18. The most common
diagnoses we treat are parasites, diarrhea,
malnutrition, poor growth, asthma, and trauma.
In addition, we see many children with genetic
or congenital problems that have not been
previously diagnosed. We provide vitamins and
parasite treatment for almost all the children
we see. Educating the parents on nutrition and
development is an important part of improving
the health of the children.
We accept pediatricians, family practitioners,
pediatric nurse practitioners and trained
pediatric physician assistants to work in this
clinic. We also welcome students in their last
months of training.
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refractor. Our local area Lions Clubs have
donated an auto refractor to the mission. With
training, 2 Lions Club members from our community are able
to provide glasses to about 800 people. This is a
service that was sorely needed in this area, as there
was is no eye doctor available at all.
We provide sealants on
permanent molars for children 6-15. This hopefully
will prevent the severe dental caries so prevalent
in the area.
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Pharmacy: This is one of our major expenses. We bring
a fully stocked pharmacy. It is staffed by at least one
pharmacist, two if possible (or a pharmacy aide), and
several general volunteers. Drugs come from multiple
sources including MAP International, who provides drugs
at low costs to medical missions, and other not for
profit sources. Some drugs are needed and are not
available through these sources and need to be
purchased, which tends to be quite expensive. We seem to
never be able to obtain enough vitamins, especially
prenatal and children’s vitamins. Other important issues
for this area are medication instruction information for
a generally illiterate population. Besides our drug
needs, we provide medications for clinics held locally
by the Lions Club and to the local hospital.
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Education: This is, as one can imagine, a very
important part of our mission. Education is offered in
several areas. Patient education is provided for
individual patients who need instruction about a
specific health problem, for instance diabetes care.
need at least 2 people to staff this area, at least one
of whom speaks Spanish. We have a great deal of
literature in Spanish, heavily illustrated for those who
can’t read. We have educational videos as well.
Personnel (“Bomberos”). The
local fire rescue personnel help transport emergency
cases from the clinic to the hospital. They are highly
motivated to help, but poorly trained. For several
years, our volunteers have given them training sessions
in CPR, extraction techniques, fracture immobilization,
neonatal care, etc. We use our volunteers who are
firemen, nurses, EMT’s, or CPR instructors to do the teaching.
Lay Midwives (“Comadronas”). This group of
women provide most of the prenatal care and deliveries
in the area. We try to improve their knowledge and
management of many conditions that they may encounter
among pregnant women and newborns. We also try to
provide them with basic tools to ensure safe deliveries:
BP cuffs, an infant scale, etc. Our main educators and
our Women’s clinic personnel do the teaching.
Public Health Doctors & Nurses. Classes are
held for Public Health doctors and nurses, teaching
neonatal resuscitation, shock stabilization, and
other first aid techniques to enable the local
population to help themselves.
Health Promoters attend classes on treating
diarrhea, recognizing dehydration in children and
some first aid.
Other. Our educator is also in charge of
arranging referrals to other hospitals or missions for
those whom we cannot help in the clinic. We coordinate
with Guatemalan physicians and hospitals whenever
possible. We are hoping in future missions to coordinate
with a Guatemalan group that works in prevention of
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Assessing Needs: In order to know where we can make
the most impact, we need to understand the local
problems. Students from the New Visions in Public Health
program in Albany have done surveys of nutritional needs
and nutritional inadequacy of the local diets. Soon,
they will start a survey of the understanding of the
local people about parasites and how to avoid them.
Using this information, we hope to be able to better
target our teaching programs in this area.
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Cooperation with Other Groups: We
cannot serve all of the area’s needs alone. We have the
good fortune to be able to cooperate with other
Guatemalan and international groups to help extend our
care. These include:
Incaparina: This not for profit group is dedicated to
improving the nutritional status of families. With the
lack of nutrition education among the populace, the dire
poverty, and unemployment, children especially suffer
from frank malnutrition. This group sells a very cheap
nutritional drink, and makes a soy protein product to
improve protein intake in an affordable way. They come
to each of our clinics to teach principles of good
nutrition to the families there.
Liga Contra el Cancer: Our newest association is with
this group, who provides a mobile pap smear clinic for
women. They are able to follow up on abnormal smears,
and provide surgery if necessary. The cost to the
mission is about $1500 each clinic. We are very excited
about being able to offer this preventive service, as
our women’s clinic has seen cases of frank cervical
cancer which were too far advanced to treat.
Lions Club: As mentioned, this group has worked with
us since we first started. The Guatemalan club arranges
our ground transportation, gets our items through
customs, stores supplies, and identifies patients for
the clinics. In turn, we are helping them establish a
dental and eye clinic and library in Cuilapa.
Cristo Rey Church: This is the location of our clinic,
in the church school classrooms. The padre has been very
helpful in allowing us to hold our clinic there for a
small donation. We help him serve his parishioners, and
have donated books in Spanish to the church school.
Cuilapa Hospital: Located about 40 minutes by bus from
the town, this is the only public hospital in the area.
They accept acute cases from our clinic. In return, we
provide medical seminars, and medical supplies and drugs
when they are available.
Guatemalan Volunteers: In the years that we have been
going to the area, many local people have become our
friends, and volunteer at every clinic. Some are
translators as well. Native Guatemalans who are doctors
or dentists, pharmacists and nurses work with us.
American and British citizens who live in Guatemala City
come to act as translators. The deep friendships that we
have established with these people are one of the main
reasons that so many of us keep going back year after
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Other: Hard to put in categories are the other things
that have been done for Nueva Santa Rosa and nearby
towns. Through the generosity of people in the Glens
Falls area, we have brought school and hygiene kits that we
passed out to families who came to the clinic. Local
schools have donated Books in Spanish that we have been
able to donate to schools and libraries near the clinic.
We have temporarily discontinued bringing the above
mentioned items because of the ever rising cost of
getting them to Guatemala. Hopefully, we will be able to
provide these items again in the future.
Firemen in our area have donated 3 completely outfitted
fire trucks to the towns near Nueva Santa Rosa. EMT’s
that have come on the mission drove a completely
equipped ambulance to the area.
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