In early November, Reese Ger-Herscott, Class of 2020, boarded a prop plane with her grandfather and traveled to the small Mexican town of El Fuerte. With a team of volunteer doctors, nurses, and support staff, the group spent the next 48 hours providing necessary healthcare to dozens of people living in the rural area.
The effort was made possible through the nonprofit LIGA International. LIGA volunteers travel once a month to set up makeshift clinics in several locations in the state of Sinaloa, including El Fuerte. The type of medical care provided by the clinics depends on the types of doctors volunteering that month. A man riding in the back of a pickup truck with a megaphone announces the services throughout the area ahead of the volunteers’ arrivals.
Reese helps set up the clinic, makes pharmacy runs, takes notes during consultations, and even helps translate when an interpreter isn’t available. She also assists her grandfather, an orthopedic surgeon, in the two-bed operating room where he performs life-changing surgeries at no cost.
One of the most common surgeries he performs is for syndactyly, a condition in which the fingers do not separate in the womb. With many jobs in the area requiring intense manual labor, having full use of the hand is incredibly important for those living there.
This is Reese’s third trip with LIGA. Since her first trip in October 2017, her role as support staff has grown and she is becoming more familiar with the town and community. During her most recent visit, Reese and her grandfather helped treat the son of a waiter who served them the first time they visited El Fuerte one year earlier.
Although she has had some experience working in medicine in the past—including through the Scripps’ Young Leaders in Healthcare club, which partners with Parker and other local high schools—Reese’s work with LIGA is giving her valuable insight into how to care for patients as she interacts with them on a fundamental level in El Fuerte.
Using the language skills she learned in her Parker Spanish classes, Reese takes patients’ medical histories and blood pressures and helps translate between patient and doctor when interpreters aren’t available.
These are skills she will use when she follows in her grandfather’s and mother’s footsteps and pursues a career in the medical field. She also hopes to continue this kind of volunteer work and to one day be the doctor in the clinic.
“I like how involved [LIGA] is. You’re totally immersed for a weekend and truly interacting with people and involved as a member of the community,” says Reese. “I still want to be able to volunteer when I get into my own medical career.”