BLUE HILL — Hattie Slayton and Oshi Ragot, two seniors at George Stevens Academy, have been awarded scholarships to join the next Hancock County Medical Mission to the Dominican Republic Feb. 9-23.
Nearly every year since 1989, medical professionals and others from Hancock County have volunteered their time to provide primary care and surgical services to underserved populations in Ecuador, Bolivia and the Dominican Republic. This is their sixth trip to the Dominican Republic where they are hosted, along with others from the United States and Canada, by Medical Mission International.
“We’re still building the team,” wrote HCMM’s Ted Spurling Jr. in an email. “The Maine group is always the largest.”
“Besides the surgical team,” Spurling said, “There is a team of family practitioners, Dominican and North American, that goes out by bus each day to different villages for general checkups, aches and pains, infections, health lessons and surgical referrals.” Eye and dental teams composed of Dominicans or Haitians also take part.
Ragot and Slayton found out about the opportunity to join the team from GSA alumnae Jessica Soukup and Maya Pelletier, mission volunteers in 2017, and from George Stevens Academy Spanish teacher Nancy Buckingham. GSA students started participating in the program 19 years ago, Buckingham said, and have gone on the mission most of those years.
The two students will use their Spanish language skills as translators, but they also will play other roles during the two-week mission to Nagua and El Factor, perhaps sterilizing instruments, or working as medical assistants or in the pharmacy, said Spurling.
Ragot thinks she’ll spend most of her time, interacting with patients. “I’m interested in studying medicine in college or going into the medical field as a career,” she said.
She also thinks this will great way to utilize the Spanish language.
“I’m definitely not fluent, but [they’ve] prepared me pretty well,” Ragot said of GSA’s Spanish courses, which she started taking as a freshman.
Slayton also started studying Spanish at GSA as a freshman, but this will not be her first long-term immersion experience. She spent her junior year in Zaragoza, a city in Northern Spain, as a student in School Year Abroad. She lived with a host family and took classes with 60 other American students. They studied English and math with teachers from the United States, but teachers from Spain taught them every other subject in Spanish, which helped her improve her language skills quickly.
The seniors will take part in meetings with other mission volunteers between now and their departure. They also were given a Spanish medical textbook to help them learn some technical vocabulary before the trip, one of Ragot’s main concerns.
“I’m working on my Spanish a lot,” she said.
“We don’t expect high school students to be perfectly fluent in Spanish,” said Spurling. “We’ll never put anyone in a situation beyond their ability.” Of the overall experience, he said, students “always come home having learned more than they expected.”
To donate toward the purchase of supplies or to learn more about the Hancock County Medical Mission, visit hcmm.homestead.com.