ST. GEORGE — Spending a week with his father providing medical services to underprivileged people in the Dominican Republic proved to be the perfect opportunity for one Dixie State University student to prepare for his own career ambitions.
Pre-med student Jensen Stock and his father, Dr. Curt Stock, an otolaryngologist at Mountain West Ear, Nose and Throat in Draper, traveled to the San Juan De La Manguana area in January with Solid Rock International as part of a medical team that performed surgeries in the poor, rural community. Although the younger Stock had no doubt a career in medicine was right for him prior to boarding a plane for the Caribbean country, the experience did serve as motivation to complete medical school and make a long-term commitment to helping those in need.
“I have a better understanding of diversity and even a greater desire to provide medical services to underserved populations,” Jensen Stock said. “Seeing their lack of means to gain an education and lack of understanding of proper hygiene standards gave me a better understanding of the problems the underserved populations face and how to help them.”
While in the Dominican Republic, Jensen Stock helped Solid Rock’s translators communicate with patients in Spanish, served as a scribe for his father by documenting consultations and examinations, and even scrubbed in for procedures as a surgery technician. Performing these tasks offered him a glimpse into the lives of the people he was serving.
“The people were some of the most faithful, trusting and loving people,” Jensen Stock said. “It was a really neat experience to see how much faith and trust they had in God and the medical field.”
The team worked long days, performing 36 surgeries in one week. Curt Stock primarily performed tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies, but he also repaired a cleft palate and cauliflower ear. The father-son duo saw 50 to 60 patients and was able to treat a number of them with means other than surgery.
“The hardest thing has been refusing anyone for treatment, so we haven’t,” Curt Stock said while still in the trenches.
Adding to the difficulty of a strenuous schedule of back-to-back surgeries, the team worked in a clinic so primitive that it barely resembled the facilities Curt Stock uses when practicing stateside. Manufactured in the 1950s, most of the clinic’s equipment has been outdated for decades. Even though he wasn’t working with cutting-edge technology, Jensen Stock said he learned more than a thing or two during the experience.
“My father and I are not some kind of heroes,” Jensen Stock said. “What I learned while serving is really humbling. I feel like I learned more from the people in the Dominican Republic than they received from getting surgeries from us. I’m thankful to them for the opportunity more than they should be thankful to me or my father for going down there.”
Rita Osborn, director of the Rural Health Scholars Program at Dixie State and Southern Utah universities, has worked with Solid Rock for many years, but this voyage — a spur-of-the-moment collaboration, as the Stocks filled in for a surgeon who was unable to make the trip at the last minute — is the first in which she matched a student with a surgical team.
“We have had hundreds of Dixie and SUU students travel to the Dominican Republic to help Solid Rock, but we usually do rural outreach medical clinics,” Osborn said. “These trips can be very transformative for our pre-med students as they learn about medicine in a developing country.”
The Rural Health Scholars Program is working toward building a team of local physicians to perform surgeries in the Dominican Republic in May and needs assistance from physicians and anesthesiologists.
“The goal would be to take a surgical team down to the Dominican Republic twice a year,” Osborn said. “The needs are great in this area and Solid Rock has an excellent infrastructure for volunteers.”
- To learn more about the Rural Health Scholars Program’s future trips and outreach vision, contact Osborn at [email protected].
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