Dr. Mulder Helps in Honduras
- Posted on: Feb 20 2015
In August, Dr. Mulder took some time away from the office to accompany his daughter Michelle on a volunteer relief trip to Honduras.
As a sophomore at Albion College, Michelle wanted to gain valuable experience in the health care field as part of her pre-med studies. She signed up to take part in Albion’s student-run Honduras Medical Relief program, and since the program recruits medical professionals in addition to student volunteers, Dr. Mulder signed on too.
Honduras Medical Relief
Honduras Medical Relief (HMR) travels to Honduras to perform medical brigades and provide sustained health care to underserved communities. Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, with an estimated 70 percent of the population living in poverty. Health care (along with clean water and education) is scarce in the rural communities, and many villages have limited or no access to medical care. Albion’s HMR program is part of Global Brigades, Inc., and collectively the organization brings aid to nearly 40,000 patients in low-income villages each year.
Dr. Mulder and Michelle set out for Honduras for one week with fourteen other students, a pharmacist, and two nurses. They flew into Tegucigalpa, the capital, and were transported to their lodging in an old President’s house a few miles away. “Honduras had such different terrain,” Dr. Mulder says. “I had never seen forests as dense as there were in Honduras. There were mountain lions and wildlife everywhere.”
Early to Rise
Each day consisted of waking up at 6:30 a.m., eating breakfast, and then traveling anywhere between one and four hours to remote villages to set up temporary clinics. They would travel to each village by bus over mountainous terrain and sometimes have to get in and out of the bus to cross deep rivers. “Our travel was involved, but when you got to the clinic site and learned of the villagers waiting who had walked through the mountains for four or five hours just to get treatment, we felt lucky,” Dr. Mulder says.
The clinics varied from village to village – sometimes in a primary school or church, whatever makeshift building was available – but each included a dental clinic, medical station, and pharmacy. The conditions were minimal – often Dr. Mulder worked on patients in a lawn chair with a headlamp for light. He treated about 25 patients each day, from children to adults. Malnutrition from poverty leads to many dental issues in remote areas of Honduras and so most of the work he performed was strictly dealing with emergencies – abstracting teeth and managing pain. The group would work until the last patient was seen around 4 p.m., and then return to home base and count out medications for the next day until 11 p.m., before falling asleep.
Memories for a Life Time
The experience had many memorable moments. At one village, there was no doctor and so the day’s procedures included sewing a man’s finger back on. At another, a small girl took a liking to Dr. Mulder and followed him around all day telling others, “My papa.”(To which Michelle replied, “No, my papa!”) One of the highlights of the week was visiting a boy’s orphanage that acted as a working farm and scholarship program for the boys to attend college. Well-behaved boys from the smaller orphanages got to move to the boy’s orphanage at 14 and work on the farm – growing potatoes and coffee or tending to cattle and sheep – to raise money to pay for their college education. “It was so neat to see,” says Dr. Mulder. “It was just amazing to watch 60 boys run a complete village in a way that supported their growth and education.”
“Overall, the whole experience was a great one,” Dr. Mulder says. “It was very bittersweet in a way – both neat to be able to make a difference, and sad that so much more still needed to be done. The students and American medical relief teams there are so dedicated to making a difference, and I was privileged to get to spend time with Michelle while also lending a hand.”
Published by: Grand Rapids Dentistry Blog – A Life of Smiles
A Grand Rapids, Michigan based cosmetic, general & sedation dentistry
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