National Volunteer Week may end April 29, but Sean Morris, MPH, OMS III, a student at the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in East Lansing (MSUCOM), will be volunteering his time with DOCARE International long after.
DOCARE is a medical outreach organization that provides healthcare to people in underserved areas around the world through short-term outreach trips and permanent health care clinics.
As student representative for the DOCARE board, Morris plays a liaison role in his efforts to raise the student voice among DOCARE members and volunteers. This means serving as a resource for DOCARE chapters across the country, facilitating guest speakers, and even exploring opportunities for students to receive class credit for participating in short-term outreach trips.
DOCARE membership at home
“Increasing the visibility and recognition of DOCARE chapters’ accomplishments and individual achievements adds more value to the membership experience,” says Morris. “Every member of DOCARE won’t be able to travel abroad, so I am working to increase collaboration and synergy between student groups.”
To do so, Morris is helping chapters to share creative fundraising ideas for future trips and connecting students to volunteer outreach opportunities in their own communities.
“Different opportunities for enrichment, like cultural awareness education, are available outside of international travel,” says Morris.
Morris says the ability to participate in DOCARE initiatives at home and abroad provides a tremendous opportunity for students to collaborate with faculty members, residents, and physicians who have a lot of international experience.
“Faculty and osteopathic physicians come together to talk about what’s being done abroad in regards to osteopathic medicine,” he says. “These education opportunities are invaluable.”
DOCARE outreach opportunities
Interested in participating in an international outreach trip? Short-term outreach trips tend to be between a week and two weeks long. DOCARE is currently accepting applications for an outreach trip to Belize from June 25-July 2.
Last year, Morris participated in a trip to Guatemala organized by MSUCOM in conjunction with DOCARE, an experience he treasures.
“Short-term outreach trips are great clinical learning opportunities for medical students who are learning to conduct physical exams,” says Morris. “It’s a great time to practice and improve your skills.”
Residents and attending physicians on the trip were available to help by confirming findings and answering any follow-up questions.
To make the most of an international outreach trip, participants should be open-minded and ready to encounter different perspectives, Morris notes.
“It’s easy to come with preconceived notions of solutions to imagined problems, but let yourself experience it first, and let the experience change your perspective,” says Morris.