USF Health Nicaragua’s 4th Capacity-Building Trip

Our time in Nicaragua always tends to feel too short. And the same can be said for our 4th annual capacity-building trip two weeks ago. However, our time there was packed full of activities, from clinical care to education to fun, and we’re thrilled with the results.

This was one of the largest groups we’ve had participate in our capacity-building trips and proved to be one of the best teams we’ve had yet. Our volunteers were motivated, passionate, and consistently willing to step in and lend a hand wherever needed.  There were 13 students and residents led by attending Dr. Elimarys Perez-Colon, Dr. Candice Mateja, and Dr. Bob Melosh. And of course, we couldn’t do what we do without our partner NGO, Manna Project International. Our clinical program director, Shanelle D’Alessio, assisted in leading the team throughout the week.

During the trip, we offered expertise in the specialties of internal medicine, pediatrics, and for the first time, surgery. We saw approximately 170 patients during the week. These included acute care visits and well child checks, and also wellness exams for all of our patients enrolled in our Chronic Patient Program. 

Our Chronic Patient Program is comprised of community members with diabetes mellitus and/or hypertension, and these individuals are closely monitored. USF Health Nicaragua has created evidence-based, community-specific guidelines for the management of these patients, and we’ve seen significant improvement in their blood pressures and A1Cs since instituting these guidelines. It has been wonderful to work with Dra. Wendy in developing and applying these guidelines, and Dra. Wendy continues to follow these guidelines when our team is at home in Florida. Our patients receive monthly supplies of their life-saving medications from the clinic, and they have extensive appointments with our specialists during our capacity-building trip. They all receive lab work at least twice annually, and more often if needed. The visits during our capacity-building trips include review of lab work, discussion on medication adherence and tolerance, and extensive education on lifestyle modifications and long-term management of disease. We were thrilled this trip to see that the majority of our chronic patients continue to be well-controlled. And spotlight on Yolanda (pictured second from the left below), whose Hemoglobin A1C continues to decline, dropping from 7.8 in our spring trip to 6.3 this trip!

Home visits are a huge part of what we do, and we know that they can have a large impact on the health of the community. We are grateful that we can work with our Community Advisory Board to identify needy or at-risk patients who may benefit from a home visit. And we’re happy to say we saw more home visits than ever this trip! Our team visited 13 patients in their homes, and were able to provide interventions to decrease morbidity and mortality associated with a variety of conditions. Given the sustainability of our program, we will be able to monitor these individuals for improvement and look forward to visiting them again personally on our next visit.

As always, we strive to make education a focus during our trips. This time, Dr. Elimarys Perez-Colon led a community discussion on the Zika virus, which included a focus on methods for prevention. This topic was requested by the community, and was very well received, with over 40 members in attendance. Furthermore, thanks to generous donations from the Tampa General Hospital, USF, and City of Lakeland communities, we were able to hand out bug spray to pregnant women in the Cedro Galan area, helping reduce the risk of serious birth defects associated with the Zika virus.

We are thrilled with the outcomes of our trip, and miss our friends in MPI and the Cedro Galan community already! Can’t wait to return in the spring!