Third year BCOM student Zack Taylor put his medical training into practice by joining forces with the Flying Samaritans, a volunteer organization which operates free medical clinics in Baja California, Mexico. The group gets its monikor because many of the doctors, dentists, nurses, translators, pilots, and support personal fly to the clinics in private aircraft.
Taylor joined a group of nine other volunteers for an experience that opened his eyes to the limits of medical care in other countries. “I’ve always been interested and motivated to prove aid to those most in need,” he said. “Being a medical student and a Spanish speaker has allowed me to connect more fully with the Spanish speakers who are in need. When I saw that this group was going to Mexico, I knew it was perfect for me.”
Over the course of two days, Taylor’s tasks included fitting patients with the correct eyeglasses for their visual impairment, serving as an interpreter for other providers, and even fixing equipment in need of repair. He saw an array of medical conditions ranging from diabetes and hypertension to chapped lips.
“We also saw other more rare or complicated situations,” he said. “One was a 12-year-old girl with severe cognitive and growth deficits. She is non-ambulatory, can’t speak, and really is functioning at the level of a two-year-old. We felt that the best thing we could do for this young girl was to provide her with a custom designed walking support that would hopefully allow her to build strength and the capability to learn to walk.”
Since there were no trained dental assistants in the group, Taylor also found himself assisting the dentist with tooth extractions and fillings, as well as what he calls “more creative solutions to complex problems,” such as how to perform a root canal without anesthesia.
He said, “The biggest take away I had from this experience was how limited medical care can be for some. This applies to both inside and outside of the United States, but when abroad it is so apparent. We were not able to treat everyone that showed up. Since there were only a couple of Spanish speakers, I had to communicate to many individuals that we would not be able to see them because we simply did not have enough time. That was difficult for me. I think that will stay with me for a while.”
Taylor’s best advice for other Flying Samaritan volunteers is to go in with an open mind and be willing to help wherever needed. He said, “I didn’t think I would go to Mexico and help people determine the correct reading glasses or help a dentist remove necrotic teeth, but I did and I am happy that I was able to make an impact.”