San Diego State’s Flying Samaritans chapter loads up 30 to 40 students and health professional volunteers in caravans each month en route to Ejido Matamoros, Mexico, an impoverished community near Tijuana, where they provide medically underserved patients with general health and dentistry needs.
“We serve patients with low incomes so they don’t have to pay for it,” said Jonah Gevercer, a kinesiology major and Executive Board President of the Flying Samaritans. “Getting healthcare for free is new for them because it doesn’t come out of their daily income.”
Every second Saturday of the month, the organization serves about 100 patients for various medical needs and between 15 and 20 patients for dental needs in the Ejido Matamoros clinic.
“The clinic has grown in the number of people served,” said Dr. Danish Farook, a surgeon and an EKG technical professor in the SDSU College of Extended Studies, who has worked with Flying Samaritans at their clinics over the past two years. “We started at around 50 at first and were at about 100 at the last clinic. It has grown in volume.”
The Flying Samaritans held an optometry clinic in July offering free glasses to patients and they plan to hold a women’s health gynecology clinic in November.
Students of the organization also opened a dental health clinic dedicated to providing patients with cost-free dental care each month.
“They’re just getting used to getting dental care,” Gevercer said. “Most of them have even never seen a dentist before.”
By increasing funding from fundraising and university support, the Flying Samaritans hope to provide patients with more consistent treatment, as well as prescription medication.
“In order to progress we want to get more involvement from the university,” Farook said. “Financially it would provide care for patients so there is no medicine missing. We want to provide patients with consistency.”
Members are required to work fundraisers prior to working at the clinic. Students raise funds for various clinical needs, including prescriptions and supplies.
“The biggest benefit for students to get involved with the program is they get to be grounded,” Farook said. “Students are able to serve the community, get out of the country if they haven’t been before, and get to appreciate what they have back home.”
Volunteers at the health clinic make personal connections with patients each month since they are often returning members who value the free care the organization provides.
“Now it’s more of a social event. Some people come and meet every month. We have mostly positive feedback,” Gevercer said.
Flying Samaritans stays at the clinic until every patient has been seen for medical care, he said. However, they are not always able to accommodate every patient seeking dental treatment.
The Flying Samaritans emphasize preventative healthcare at the public health clinics.
Many students assist in teaching patients how to prevent their own illnesses since many patients have not had previous access to health planning.
“A lot of people just don’t know that they can prevent it. I like the public health aspect of it,” said Kayla Hanscom, a food and nutrition major and Flying Samaritans member.
“It’s the most hands-on experience students can do to get involved with most of your community.”
Opportunities are available in shadowing practitioners, fundraising, advertising the Flying Samaritans’ clinic and more.
“Students are involved in all parts of the process from triaging, shadowing, making sure clients get their prescriptions, and the whole flow of the clinic,” Farook said. “Many of us health professionals are working every day and probably would not be able to put it together without the students who work hard and do it.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article said up to 20 students worked the clinics each month, which is incorrect. There are between 30 and 40 students there every time. Also, Dr. Danish Farook is a surgeon, not a licensed practitioner in natural medicine, which was wrongly written in this article.