During my second year of medical school, I boarded a plane along with several other volunteers for a medical mission trip to Honduras. Honduras is a beautiful country full of gracious people, but it is poverty-stricken and lacks basic medical care and resources for a large proportion of its citizens.Our medical mission team examined and treated hundreds of patients a day in makeshift medical clinics at churches and schools, and although many treatments were successful, I left feeling like there was so much more that needed to be done. In the short time I was there we were unable to implement vital and sustainable changes like providing access to clean water, building medical clinics and homes, or even establishing follow-up care with our patients to see if our treatments were working. These are all things we take for granted in the United States, but that are consistently absent in developing countries. Without them, sustainable change is not realized for countries like Honduras. Therefore, I returned to Columbus from my mission feeing disappointed, rather than fulfilled. The work we had done was inadequate. It was this sentiment that heightened my interest in international healthcare, and drove a desire to create meaningful and sustainable change.
I shared these thoughts with my classmates and found that a few of them had similar experiences on their medical mission trips. They shared my ambition to do more to improve the lives of patients who live in the poorest areas of the world. In response, four of my classmates and I founded the non-profit organization, Ride for World Health (R4WH), in 2006. R4WH is an annual cycling trip from California to Washington, D.C. that raises funds for international healthcare organizations. The riders average 80 miles a day, and give 40 lectures in 45 days about international healthcare as part of a “Coast-to-Coast Lecture Series.” I am proud to say that to date, R4WH has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars that have improved the health and lives of countless individuals around the world.
The 2014 R4WH riders passed through Columbus a few weeks ago on their way to Washington, D.C. You may have missed the riders, but it’s never too late to donate. Visit http://r4wh.org/ for more information, and to see how you can get involved and change the lives of those in need.