Written by Erin Frazee
Erin Frazee traveled to Belize in January 2009 as Drake’s first pharmacy students to complete a clinical rotation at the Hillside Health Care International Clinic (http://www.hil lsidebelize.net). Erin strongly believes in the importance of turning an ordinary opportunity into an extraordinary one. This is a belief she was able to incorporate into this rotation in a rural, impoverished setting with her “Pack the Suitcase” project. Before her journey, Erin shared these thoughts with DELTA Rx:
What is your background and how did that lead you to pursue this opportunity?
I have always had an interest in global healthcare, as well as a strong belief in the importance of finding ways to do extraordinary things with ordinary opportunities. I’ve been exposed to medical mission work through some of my close friends, but have never taken part in it myself. The opportunities for international rotations at Drake have always been of interest to me and when I heard about the experience in Belize I was eager to learn more. What I came to appreciate is that this was a rural and impoverished setting that would allow me to engage in outreach activities in the community as well as working in the clinic. I had been to Costa Rica before to visit a family member; my previous trips made me realize that this was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss.
Describe the Suitcase Campaign and the development of this project.
Hillside Health Care International Clinic is donation based and volunteer driven, which means it has a vast list of items they lack to provide basic healthcare. The concept of the Suitcase Campaign started when I recognized the needs of the clinic and I wanted to do something to help the clinic and fulfill some of these needs.
First, I wrote and submitted a grant to Trinity Lutheran Church in Moorhead, Minnesota which I received. The $4000 that was allotted allowed me to provide prescription medications for the clinic. The parishioners at Trinity Lutheran also had the chance to be involved by bringing in over- the-counter medications and money to help “fill the suitcase” for my trip to Belize.
I also contacted Project HERO which is a non-profit group that recycles durable medical equipment and supplies. They were able to contribute approximately 800 pounds of supplies such as canes, walkers, tape, crutches, gauze, and ACE bandages.
Additionally, my current preceptor at HyVee (a pharmacy/grocery chain in the Midwest) heard me talking about this future rotation and also wanted to donate. He put together several large boxes of supplies including pharmacy counting trays, lice medications, and iron tablets.
Networking also helped develop this project. By contacting a friend at a Scheels All Sports Store in Mankato, Minnesota, we were able to add two all terrain bikes to the list of items that were being donated to Hillside.
A portion of the donated money was used to fill other items on the clinic’s wish list beyond medications such as an air conditioner, a power washer, a vacuum cleaner, a weed-eater, a microwave oven, and a toaster. Area businesses helped with this part of the project as well.
The total market value for this project was close to $30,000, thanks to the help of all of these groups and organizations.
How did you determine the resources required to “fill the suitcase” and how did you acquire these resources?
I obtained a list of the clinic’s needs, as well as a document comparing the items they use with their annual inventories. This allowed me to determine what supplies were in high demand.
To determine the resources needed to manage the project, I calculated a dollar amount based on the medication/need list of the clinic. This amount was used in my first grant proposal. The second grant was written from an estimate of the shipping cost.
Most of the acquired resources came from grants or donations. The grant funding will cover the prescription medications and shipping, and the rest of the supplies are all donations. Also, several local business offered discounts on home appliances and tools.
What challenges have you overcome so far?
The biggest challenge has been trying to organize the entire project while still being involved in my other rotations. The majority of the activities for the Suitcase Campaign are happening in my hometown, while my rotations are located in other areas. As a result, I’ve had to make extra trips to communicate with others involved, to get organized, and to attending meetings. This barrier was overcome with the help of several people, including my parents, who helped manage the project in my absence.
Another obstacle of the Suitcase Campaign, although an exciting one, was shipping all of the supplies that I had acquired to the rotation site in Belize . The cost of shipping the 1,200 pounds would be approximately $2000. To overcome this hurdle, another request was made to the Trinity Foundation, who agreed to fund the shipping of all the supplies and equipment to the Hillside International Clinic.
What have you learned from organizing this project?
One item that I have taken away from the Suitcase Campaign is that organizations have the resources to support projects such as grants for medication donations. I also saw how service work inspires other to action, whether it be in a large way (such as the organizations who donated hundreds/thousands of dollars) or in a small way (the ‘little grandma’ who brought in a box of 81 mg aspirin and was really proud to be involved and help someone less fortunate). All we need to do is provide an opportunity for it to happen.
What are you hoping to accomplish in Belize?
My main goal is to learn and take advantage of all the opportunities offered. Drake has given me tools to inspire activism in the pharmacy profession, and helped me be confident enough to take risks, such as this rotation. In school, I have learned a great deal about pharmacy, but I anticipate that this rotation will teach me about humanity. I am not trying to change the world, but if I can provide a small amount of benefit to this community and clinic, I will have accomplished my goal.
What advice would you give to others in this area?
Don’t be afraid to take unique opportunities. Situations like this can be a catalyst for change. In order to experience something completely new and innovative, you have to be willing to work, but the generosity of others is refreshing and you will learn a lot about yourself along the way.