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Going Global

Global Brigades, a student-led international-development organization, takes action through a variety of disciplines, including medicine. Global Medical Brigades (GMB) at UCLA, part of Global Brigades, offers missions throughout the year. UCLA-trained physicians have volunteered, through GMB, to provide comprehensive health services in rural communities with limited access to healthcare in Ghana, Honduras and Panama. Each community receives a brigade every three-to-four months, during which hundreds of patients are treated. Between these missions, the in-country team maintains relationships with the communities to provide follow-up and conduct community-health-worker trainings to empower local leaders to perpetuate a consistent level of healthcare.

Drs. Jan Takasugi and Robert Goldberg (from left, seated) with students, while seeing patients in a GMB clinic set up in the church of a Honduran village.
Drs. Jan Takasugi and Robert Goldberg (from left, seated) with students, while seeing patients in a GMB clinic set up in the church of a Honduran village.

(From left) Dr. Robert Goldberg with daughter Gina and son Kevin outside of the clinic, asfamilies line up to be treated.
(From left) Dr. Robert Goldberg with daughter Gina and son Kevin outside of the clinic, asfamilies line up to be treated.

Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Robert Goldberg

Robert “Bob” A. Goldberg, MD ’83 (RES ’87, FEL ’88, ’89), and Jan K. Takasugi, MD ’83
For our family vacation in 2009, Jan and I took our children Kevin and Gina on a GMB mission to Honduras. I thought the best part of this experience was working with the college students from UC Santa Barbara and UCLA. For most of them, it was their first exposure to medicine. I was impressed with their idealism and with their enthusiasm to learn. The first day, we arrived at a small village, and the patients were lined up around the block by the time we got there. There were almost 700 patients, and we had only eight doctors. It was a struggle to see everybody. That evening after dinner, we made a classroom out of the dining room and taught courses in medical-history taking and medical assisting. Instead of just observing, the students were assigned to work as medical assistants. We were able to see far more patients, and the students got a real sense of medical practice. It was a thrill to see them working hard, gaining self-confidence and really making a difference in the lives of these grateful patients.

We were fortunate to have an impressive, talented group of physicians who loved teaching. Several specialties were involved, including family practice, surgery, orthopaedics and ophthalmology, so it was a mini-medical school with not only the students, but also the physicians learning from each other as they diagnosed and treated a wide variety of diseases. Even though I do charity work at home, there’s nothing like the experience of going to a community that has no other access to medical care, where no insurance or payment is involved, and where people are so grateful for the care they receive. The physicians and students especially enjoyed the opportunity to create a genuine human bond with the delightful families we met in these charming rural villages. Being with these young, idealistic students reminded me of the wonder of being a physician and brought me back to my own days as a young student of medicine.

Doug Katsev, MD (FEL ’90)

Kiki Katsev during her GMB mission, with two local children outside the clinic.
Kiki Katsev during her GMB mission, with two local children outside the clinic.

Dr. Doug Katsev and daughter Cailyn in surgery during GMB mission.
Dr. Doug Katsev and daughter Cailyn in surgery during GMB mission. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Doug Katsev

My daughters, Kiki, who was attending UCLA, and Cailyn, a student at Berkeley, and I joined Dr. Bob Goldberg and Dr. Jan Takasugi and their two children on a GMB trip to Honduras in 2009. The team consisted of approximately 100 people, mostly undergraduates from UCLA and UC Santa Barbara, who had decided to spend their vacation time as volunteers. The group had extraordinary talents. Although the team was diverse, the common factor was a big, giving heart! It was refreshing to be around college students with an incredible appetite to learn. I was impressed that these young adults understood that living a fulfilled life is more about what you give than what you receive.

Although Bob and I had been friends for a long time, having both families together on a medical mission created a bond that will never break. Unlike most family vacations, the memory of this trip strengthens with time, rather than fades. As a volunteer eye surgeon, I have traveled to every continent to perform cataract and corneal surgeries. The ability to take what I learned from my medical education to help people in developing countries to see better and to guide the next generation cannot be overstated. I have participated in two GMB trips to Honduras (2008 and 2009). For anyone who participates in a GMB mission, your life and the lives of those around you will be forever changed. True happiness comes from a lifestyle of giving to others.

Gregory L. Hirsch, MD ’78 (RES ’81, FEL ’83)

In May 2011, I traveled to Francisco Morazán FMO, located in the central part of Honduras, to volunteer on a GMB mission. I went at the suggestion and invitation of my UCLA college roommate and closest friend, who also is a physician. We joined a team that included an American nurse practitioner, two Honduran doctors and 20 pre-med/nursing students who were taught to take vital signs, point out findings and listen to the heart and lungs. Each day, the team saw approximately 150 patients to provide care for such issues as hypertension, diabetes, infections, parasites and immunizations. Some patients walked or rode horses down from the hills to reach the clinic. With the desire to provide care for everyone in the area, the team drove in a four-wheel-drive vehicle into the hills to see people who could not travel to the clinic.

Dr. Gregory Hirsch in front of the clinic in Francisco Morazán FMO, Honduras.
Dr. Gregory Hirsch in front of the clinic in Francisco Morazán FMO, Honduras.
I went on this mission because I’ve always wanted to go to a developing country to help people from a different culture. It was exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. The people were very warm and gracious. I intend to do it again in the future.

For more information about Global Brigades, go to: globalbrigades.org

 





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