NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Four Stephen F. Austin State University alumni working in health-care-related fields joined with two SFA dietetic intern graduate students this summer to provide care to more than 400 patients in Guatemala.
SFA dietetic interns Brandi Gouldthorpe of Tyler and Leslie Rowe of Gladewater worked alongside SFA alumni Leslie Goudarzi and Hannah Dunahoe, registered dietitians, Dr. Tedd Mitchell, president of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and internist, and Dr. Ben Mack, general surgeon in Longview, to help those in need.
The group spent a week interviewing patients, recording medical histories, collecting vital information, screening patients for hypertension and analyzing anthropometric measurements, which were used to educate patients on risk factors and disease processes.
“I grew up on this trip and was able to see how I could make a difference. I used my knowledge of nutrition and dietetics to change lives,” Gouldthorpe said. “Even though there were language and cultural barriers, being kind and helping others are universal. Little acts of kindness, such as a smile, a hug or asking others about their day, shows love and what really is important in life.”
The trip, organized by Refuge International, a non-profit organization that helps people by providing health care, nutrition information, clean water and education programs, stationed the SFA team at a remote clinic in San Raymundo where team members performed more than 60 surgeries.
“I learned to appreciate all we take for granted in America,” Gouldthorpe said. “There is a need to be bigger than ourselves and to use the gifts we have been given and the knowledge we have learned to give back to others.”
Dietetic graduate students are required to complete 1,200 supervised practice hours during the year to be eligible to sit for the national registered dietitian exam. This trip helped the graduate students earn those hours.
“Although the environment at the clinic was unlike any typical hospital, I learned about the roles of other health professionals who are involved in the care process,” Rowe said. “I enjoyed getting to be involved with or observe nurses, nurse practitioners, doctors and surgeons. I will take this knowledge and apply it to my future rotations in similar settings.”
Rowe added that although the environment was fast-paced, she learned by example, verbal instructions and practice. “I quickly learned how to conduct intake exams and how to efficiently communicate with patients in an appropriate manner, which is very valuable for my future practice as a dietetics student and professional.”