Daniel Beckerman, Team Captain
Dan is a 2nd year MD/MPH candidate at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. After playing varsity rugby and completing a bachelors at UC Berkeley, he worked with UCSF’s department of orthopedic surgery and performed with the band Sweet Plot. He stayed at UCSF to compete a Masters in Translational Medicine before moving to Miami for medical school. In between the demands of school, Dan carves out time for sports, cooking and traveling at every spare moment.
Acacia Crouch, Team Member
Acacia was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ. In college, dancing authentic Argentine tango became her favorite past time, which led to a semester abroad in Buenos Aires. It was this international experience that peaked her interest in other cultures. She learned Spanish and lived with an Argentine family to fully immerse herself in their way of life. Upon returning to the US, she could not wait for her next international adventure. She now attends the University of Miami where her passion for learning about other cultures has coalesced with her love for medicine and helping the underserved in her work with Medical Students in Action. Acacia’s free time is somewhat limited due to her work, but she likes to spend it doing yoga, going out to eat, hiking, playing piano and singing a Capella.
Mackenzie Grady, Team Member
Mackenzie hails from St. Louis where she attended Washington University in St. Louis, graduating with a BA in Spanish and Biology and minoring in Public Health. After graduation, Mackenzie left the arctic temperatures and the land of Cardinals baseball behind for warmer climes in Miami to purse her MPH. Mackenzie couldn’t seem to quit Miami and is now completing her fourth year of Medical School at the University of Miami. Her passion for intertwining the tenants of public health with the practice of medicine is exemplified by her work with Medical Students in Action and she is looking forward to her future career in Ob/Gyn and global women’s health.
Rancho al Medio is a rural Dominican community scattered throughout a labyrinth of dirt roads and sun stroked trees. It is here, within the peeling walls of an elementary school, that we see over 900 patients each April. Like all medical-mission trips, ours faced the daunting challenge of delivering sustainable longitudinal care.
Six years ago, an elderly patient with hypertension would have left our health fair with a diagnosis and 14 days’ worth of antihypertensives. A toddler whose belly was riddled with parasites would have left with a course of anti-parasitics. In 14 days, our elderly patient would again have uncontrolled hypertension and our toddler would again be re-infected through the water she drank. Each year we continued our Sisyphean task of transient, temporary care that failed to foster long term community health benefits.
We needed help year-round to make a lasting impact. Community members were interested in furthering our efforts and a Community Health Worker (CHW) model was adopted. Two years ago, a 25-year-old mother who could barely walk arrived with an ejection fraction of 15%. Today, after working with us and her CHW, she has a local cardiologist, can access medication, and remains mostly asymptomatic with an ejection fraction of 40%.
As the benefits of our collaboration became evident, the CHW role was expanded to include patient education, monitoring vitals and blood sugar, tracking patient progress with follow-up forms, and assisting with medication access. We also collaborate to dignify lives through non-medical means such as providing pads for incontinent elderly and wheelchairs for persons with disabilities. Unmet needs are identified by CHWs and relayed to us so that we can mobilize resources to address them.
To target upstream determinants of health, a public health team was formed. We partnered with the CDC to ameliorate issues in migrant communities who lacked access to the local health system. We advocated for our community, working with NGO’s to provide shoes for children who were playing barefoot amongst broken glass, to bring clean water when the community’s tested positive for E. Coli, and to renovate unsanitary latrines.
Education is also a pillar of our efforts. In our absence, it is the knowledge we share that empowers the communities we serve to progress. While patients are waiting to be seen, we distribute condoms and fill knowledge gaps about sexual health. Sessions on hand hygiene and dental care will be integrated in our next trip at the request of our community partners.
Our organization seeks to provide lasting health benefits by combining the framework of a medical mission with that of a CHW program and a public health team. Together we address upstream determinants of health and barriers to care. In addition to our yearly trip, a small team returns quarterly to meet with CHWs, see patients and further our public health efforts. Our success as an organization relies on our relationship with our community partners. It is through their guidance that we are able to create a lasting impact on those we serve.