Project HELP Provides Sint Maarten Residents Complimentary Medical Evaluations and Screenings

April 18, 2013

The first Project H.E.L.P. event was held on April 6 at the Dutch Quarter clinic of Dr. R. Sanchit and the adjacent Neighborhood Help Desk. The overall purpose of the H.E.L.P. initiative is to promote health, educate participants about healthy living choices, increase literacy/understanding of health risks and indicators, and focus on prevention of illness through adoption of healthy practices. H.E.L.P. supports the healthcare needs of uninsured and perhaps under-served residents of St. Maarten.  H.E.L.P. also serves to foster relationships within the St. Maarten community by creating a collaborative learning environment for patients, physicians-in-training, and St. Maarten licensed physicians.

The April 6 event provided free health screenings to over 70 St. Maarten residents who came with their health concerns and desire for a health check.  Seventeen physicians-in-training from the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) performed screening for heart health and blood pressure and checks of eyes/vision and ears/hearing. St. Maarten physician, Dr. Anand Raghosing, supervised the work of the physicians-in-training and delivered results of the screenings to each patient.

The launch of Project H.E.L.P. is the realization of a vision of two AUC physicians-in-training, Malary Mani and Nimish Sudan, who saw a need for additional exposure to clinical experience. After discussion with AUC faculty and St. Maarten physicians, the students requested a meeting with the St. Maarten Ministry of Public Health, Social Development, and Labour to explore a collaboration around health, education, literacy and prevention. The AUC proposal fit well with the philosophy and approach of the Ministry; and continued discussions resulted in a project plan. The April 6 launch represents a collaboration of AUC, the St. Maarten Ministry of Public Health, Social Development, and Labour, a group of St. Maarten licensed physicians, and neighborhood centers.  AUC is extremely grateful for the contributions of Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, Cornelius de Weever and partners from the ministry in the development and implementation of the project.

The collaborative organization of Project H.E.L.P. yields benefit for all partners. Educational opportunity is enhanced for AUC physicians-in-training as they perform screening exams and interact with patients and St. Maarten physicians. AUC benefits from the opportunity to engage with island neighbors in a way that addresses local priorities. The Ministry benefits from additional outreach resources and collection of data about health conditions on the island. And, the people of St. Maarten have greater access to health screenings and information in their own neighborhood and at no cost. AUC faculty advisor for the project, Dr. Golden Jackson, Director of Service-Learning and Community Affairs, sees the project as an important step in fostering development of cultural competence and the ability of learners to connect the community experience with academic learning in a way that deepens understanding.

At the end of the day at the initial Project H.E.L.P. event, the facial expressions from physicians-in-training and hugs from patients served as testimony of the excitement and potential felt by everyone associated with the project after months of planning and efforts required for the realization of the vision of two students.