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JETS: Joining Education Through Service

Service learning in Nicaragua with the Biology Department

Students work directly with patients at a clinic in Nicaragua
Allison Stoner '09 works with a pediatric patient at a clinic in Nicaragua on the spring break 2009 trip.

Biology professor Dr. Dara Wegman-Geedey and the student group Augustana Community Health Outreach Organization (ACHOO), formed the JETS program in 2008 to provide clinical experience in public health outreach.

As part of the Augustana emphasis on service learning, the JETS program plants the seed of "service to the underserved" in the hearts of students.

The JETS program partners with Global Medical Training, a non-profit organization that provides medical services to poor communities in Central America.

For about two weeks, students travel to small communities throughout Nicaragua to assist in running free health clinics for the local people. Evenings are for group reflection as students discuss their experiences and feelings about what they have witnessed.

Students come away with some technical training, experience working with physicians and patients, and exposure to lifestyles and people unlike those they would experience at home.

While Spanish language ability comes in handy during the trip, it is not a requirement for participation. Prior clinical experience is also not necessary, as students receive training prior to the trip. Students learn the basics, such as taking patient histories, administering shots, and making preliminary diagnoses. All diagnoses are confirmed by one of the partner physicians before treatment continues.

In addition, several Augustana alumni accompany the students on each trip, offering experience and support. There are two trips each year, one during spring break and the other just after the end of the academic year in early June.

Students gain much from the JETS experience

Students learn how to do dental work at a clinic in Nicaragua
Ashley Casper '09, left, and Vanessa Osborne '10, second from left, learn how to work with dental patients in Nicaragua on the spring break 2009 trip.

Brianna Conforti, '09: "I feel that the most important thing I learned while in Nicaragua was about responsibility. I discovered that along with being a physician there is a great responsibility to not only patients, but to community and the world.

"After seeing the unbelievable amount of poverty in Nicaragua, my eyes were opened to the fact that a doctor needs to be concerned with more than just their own practice in the comfort of the suburbs. I hope that when I am a physician I never lose sight of my responsibility to give something back to the community, via work in underprivileged areas and other countries less fortunate than our own."

Keli Coleman, '09: "Vocationally speaking, I will be able to "do the most good" for my family, my community, and for the world by never giving up on my goals. I plan to become a rural doctor in an underprivileged area in the United States, and also to extend my familiarity of global issues afforded by Operation JETS to my actions in my medical practice as well as aboard future voyages to spread medical knowledge and assistance internationally.

"I would like to be an additional voice and advocate for international issues that have fallen upon "deaf ears." Some of the very same principles that we applied in Nicaragua can be used in America to reach out to others who are in need of help."

Kristin Sentman, '08, currently a medical student at University of St. Louis: "I knew that going on the JETS program to Nicaragua would be a change and open my eyes to many different things, but I did not know exactly what an affirming and life-changing experience it would be. The things I saw and the people I met really opened my eyes to a different world, helping me understand not only another culture but also to more accurately be able to access my own. The trip also helped me look at what my own life goals were, how I want to make a difference in the world."

Students on the Spring Break 2009 JETS trip to Nicaragua

How to participate in the JETS program

Participation in the JETS program begins the year before the trip a student takes. After an application has been accepted, the student must participate in preparation sessions and training.

For more information on the JETS program, see the Operation JETS website, the ACHOO website, or Dr. Dara Wegman-Geedey at DaraWegman-Geedey@augustana.edu.