Students tackle public health with Piedmont

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With the assistance of Piedmont Healthcare, students around the metro-Atlanta area are preparing for careers in healthcare and improving public health in Honduras through a new non-profit organization called MDJunior.

The brainchild of Milton High School student Shaun Verma, a 17-year-old resident of Milton, Ga., MDJunior is a student-run leadership society that pairs students interested in healthcare careers with mentors who support and guide them.

“I wanted to inspire selfless service through mentorship, by focusing on the noble aspects of the medical profession. Since nearly one in three Georgia students fail to finish high school, we wanted to treat this disengagement by encouraging students to reach their full potential. I hope it will inspire others to go into medicine,” Verma said. The organization focuses on underserved communities both locally and globally.

Piedmont Neonatologist Deepa Ranganathan, M.D., who has been passionate about this project, and has mentored Verma for years, brought it to Piedmont Healthcare for consideration.

“It was a good fit between Piedmont and the community,” Ranganathan said. “And it has the potential to give back more than we gave, by inspiring students to love and pursue medicine as a career.”

The group completed its first global medical-mentor mission trip in the rural communities of El Campamento and Flur Azul, Honduras. The group collaborated with both government and private entities, including the Consulate General of Honduras, the Health & Fire Department of Danili, Sociedad Amigoes de los Niños and Centro Medico Santa Rosa de Lima.

The group set up field clinics with supplies provided by Piedmont, including commonly needed medications and supplies, such as antibiotics, hand sanitizer, gauze, tubing and surgical provisions. The students also threw themselves into preventative public health projects, such as building latrines and bathing areas, installing a stove with a chimney, and pouring concrete in homes where there had previously been only dirt floors.

Consulate General of Honduras Emelisa Callejas Romero said that she would like to see the community get involved with MDJunior’s efforts. “I applaud them in their pursuit to create a more ethical, sustainable model of global health.”

Ranganathan said that it was an eye-opening experience for the students, who were visibly impacted by the cultural and economic disparities between the two countries.

Adrian Armogan, a 17-year-ol
d recent graduate from Collins High School in Lawrenceville, Ga., volunteered on the trip with the assistance of Piedmont.

“I never thought I would be putting a floor in someone’s house. Although it was a lot of hard work, the most fulfilling part was seeing how much hope it gave the family and the community as a whole,” Armogan said. “In the U.S., kids my age always want more and it’s never enough; but after I went to Honduras, I realized how grateful we should be for what we have.”

Armogan is on a pre-pharmacy track with Georgia Southern University, and worked in the mission’s drug dispensary. He is also working on opening a chapter at Georgia Southern, and has been chosen to serve as an MDJunior 2012 Global Fellow on future medical missions, in order to mentor new members.

MDJunior activities revolve around three pillars of success: knowledge, skills and attitude. Between mission trips, members job shadow, enjoy lectures from healthcare professionals who visit their chapter meetings and volunteer at humanitarian events, as they did for Piedmont Atlanta Hospital’s N.I.C.U. reunion and Men’s Fitness Health Expo.

In addition, Verma and Ranganathan presented the project at two conferences: The Midwestern Global Health Conference at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the Fifth Annual Pediatric Global Health Symposium at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The organization now has 20 chapters from California to Georgia, along with two in Honduras.

For more information on MDJunior, or to volunteer, visit mdjr.org.

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