Flying Doctors make house call in El Salvador
(Edmonton) Mere weeks after graduating with her degree in medical laboratory science, Ashlyn Fong boarded a plane bound for El Salvador to provide free medical care for people in need. The Edmontonian was part of a team through Flying Doctors of Canada, a charity founded by University of Alberta medical school graduates.
Fong and her 34 teammates were in El Salvador from July 9 to 20. She worked alongside physicians and dentists, as well as students and professionals from the medical laboratory, ultrasound and X-ray technology fields. The group took vitamins and medications with them, as well as X-ray and ultrasound equipment, and a fully functional medical lab. The Flying Doctors of Canada also worked closely with FUDECOM (Fundación para el Desarrollo Comunal y Municipal), a local partner that supplied them with translators, as well as dentists, to provide the communities with much-needed oral care.
“We set up our clinics in whatever facility the community could provide,” said Fong. “We spent most of our time in schools, but one day we ran our clinic right out of community homes.”
Those coming to the clinic mainly needed help managing chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. These conditions are easily managed and treated in Canada, but in developing countries they can lead to premature blindness, stroke or amputation if not managed properly.
“I was excited to have the opportunity to help others,” says Fong, whose role was to collect and test blood and urine samples from patients coming to the clinic.
What she really enjoyed about volunteering with Flying Doctors of Canada is that the organization also focuses on educating the community, so locals can permanently improve their quality of life. Education sessions on this trip focused on the importance of dental hygiene and proper oral care.
While in El Salvador, the Flying Doctors of Canada also spent time building and installing eco-stoves for locals. Because El Salvador is prone to torrential rains, people regularly cook on open fires inside their homes, with women spending the majority of their time in the kitchen.
“Smoke in the home is obviously not good for respiratory health, so these stoves will provide a means of filtering the smoke out, and provide better air quality for the locals,” says Fong.
Now that she is back in Canada, Fong is already back at work—but she plans to volunteer with Flying Doctors of Canada in the near future.
“This experience was so rewarding and eye-opening, I’ll never forget it,” she says. “I can’t wait to go back.”