Read how KMMS medical student Emily worked with Global Brigades and organised a trip to Honduras to offer humanitarian aid.

Fourth year medical KMMS student Emily is busy. Not only is she studying to become a doctor, but she’s now the President of the Humanitarian Medicine Society. And last year, as VP of the society, she and then-President Samahat, lead the Society’s trip to Honduras to spend a week in rural areas, giving medical care and health education to some of the most deprived people in the country.

Here, we caught up with Emily to see how this trip came about and the opportunities that this experience has opened up for her.

Fundraising for Global Brigades

“Samahat and I really wanted to do something that was ethical and sustainable. We wanted to see where our fundraising was going and actually make a difference.

"So, that’s why we chose to work with Global Brigades as they’ve won a ton of awards and are internationally recognised for their work. The student-funded charity prioritises sustainability and financial transparency, as well as sharing our ambitions of wanting to create real change for those who don’t have the luxury of accessing free healthcare.

"We managed to get a group of 21 medical students together for the trip, which meant a lot of fundraising! We had to raise £982 per person, which didn’t include flights.

"We managed to raise a total of £18,479, and we used CCCU’s Career Development Fund to help pay for our travel on top of that. It was an expensive feat, but we managed to pull it off!”

Volunteering in the clinic

“From our donations, the clinic was set up. Each day, we travelled to different communities to offer this medical care. Some people had never even seen a doctor before, so it was quite the culture shock.

"There were five stations altogether: triage, GP service, dentistry, prescriptions, and then health education.

"Us volunteers got experience on each station, which gave us a chance to practise our basic triage skills. And we had to do it all in Spanish, which was an extra challenge. But thankfully, we had interpreters with us.

"We also went to home visits with the doctor and visited patients who were too frail or unwell to travel to the clinic.

"And we provided basic education in a school on our last day, which covered how to brush your teeth and basic sexual health.”

Gaining experience and transferable skills

“The experience was incredible. As medical students, you know that as soon as you graduate, you’ll become a Junior Doctor. Having this experience has made us better equipped for this role because we’re able to communicate more effectively and appreciate the different cultures and backgrounds of our patients.

"Having to diagnose patients with a language barrier was tough. But through this experience, we gained the confidence to practise our compassion and empathy and, whilst communicating was difficult at times, we still built a strong rapport with our patients, which ultimately will make us better doctors by the end of it.

"One of the biggest skills I’ve learned is having the confidence to both run this society and be a good doctor. Ultimately, I’ve gained the confidence to give it a go, whatever that is!”

New challenges and opportunities

“Personally, this trip has opened up so many opportunities for me. This year, as I’m now the President of the Humanitarian Medicine Society, I’m planning our next trip, which will be to Ghana. And because Honduras was so successful, word got out, and we now have 38 students who are keen to get involved and join us on our next trip.

"Not only that, but I’m in the process of applying for a space on the UK Board of Global Brigades to support other universities and medical schools that want to do the same thing.

"As a whole, this trip gave me a solid support system with my fellow medical students. On our degree, we’re always split up on placements which makes it difficult for us all to build strong friendships and support each other. But through this experience, we’ve all become really close friends through something that everyone’s passionate about.”

Future goals

“Hopefully, I’ll be a doctor after my fifth and final year next year – fingers crossed! Then, once I get to specialise, I’d love to go into humanitarian aid and paediatrics. This trip has definitely solidified that this is where I want my career to head towards.

"But for now, I’m focusing on finishing fourth year and planning our next humanitarian aid trip.”

Support and opportunities as a CCCU student

Through Emily’s dedication and passion, she continues to fulfil her passion to work in humanitarian aid alongside her friends. Not only has this opened many doors for her, but through her hard work, she has given other students the opportunity to fundraise and volunteer abroad as well.

As a student at Canterbury Christ Church University, or our medical school KMMS, you will be supported with any new ideas you have. Like Emily was supported through the Career Development Fund, you’ll have access to support and other opportunities as a CCCU student.

If you’re keen to visit us, come to our next Answers Afternoon on 13 March. If you’re looking to visit KMMS in particular, then visit their website for more information about their Open Days.

A huge congratulations to Emily, and we wish her all the best for her next trip!