Surgeon Harris Mainster, D.O. (in white shirt)
prepares to treat a patient with a painful skin
infection. He is assisted by a Guatemalan
doctor (in light blue scrubs) and two medical
In the morning, hundreds of Guatemalans line up early outside temporary medical camps, many walking miles to be there.
It’s a scene David Walters, D.O., Botsford Hospital’s vice president and chief clinical officer, has witnessed more than once in his seven trips to the area.
Help where it’s needed
Each year, teams of Botsford residents, physicians, nurses, and community members, as well as volunteers from other Michigan hospitals, travel to the Central American nation to provide medical care to thousands of people in rural areas who would otherwise not have access.
"The mission is twofold really—to provide locals access to health care and to take those early in their career in medicine and expose them to what it’s like in developing countries,” says Dr. Walters.
Every day a team would set up medical clinics in and around the city of Tecpán, a mountainous region of active volcanoes and Mayan culture. This year, they cared for approximately 2,000 patients with conditions ranging from asthma to chronic pain to eye and skin ailments. The two-week mission wrapped up in early March.
A great reward
Dr. Walters admits preparation for the trip is a lot of work. The group must raise funds to cover transportation, housing and fees associated with purchasing medications.
But it’s worth it to get the heartfelt thank-yous from grateful patients.
“You come back and feel like you made a difference in people’s lives. There’s such a need,” says Dr. Walters. “When you get home from these trips, you think, We’ve got to keep doing this.”