Glens Falls Medical Mission Foundation.

What We Do

Medical Care | Allied Health | Pharmacy | Education | Assessing Needs | Coordination & Cooperation with Other Groups | Other

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 clinics.

  • 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.

  • Dentistry. Severe dental 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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Allied Health:

  • Auto 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.

  • Sealant Clinic. 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. We 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.

  • Fire Rescue 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. 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 domestic violence.
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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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Coordination and 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 year.
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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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