Pritzker students awarded for public health trip

February 1, 2008

February 1, 2008 Pritzker student Rohit Puranik (center) helps conduct a toddler’s health assessment in a village outside the southern coastal province of Barahona.

Students from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine recently received the first Outstanding REMEDY Program Award for service in medicine provided during a public health trip to the Dominican Republic, one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere. The award will be presented at the first annual REMEDY Global Impact Awards ceremony on April 5, 2008, in Seymour, Conn.

The Yale School of Medicine, which administers the nationwide program--called REMEDY, for Recovered Medical Equipment for the Developing World--selected the Pritzker team from more than 600 similar programs nationwide.

REMEDY sends medical supplies to developing countries throughout the world to address critical health care needs while reducing the amount of U.S. solid medical waste, such as a surplus of syringes.

Since its beginnings, the University of Chicago REMEDY has been lauded as one of the best programs in the country "for a variety of reasons," said Tammy Young, executive director of REMEDY, Inc.

Chicago was chosen as the first award winner for "the dedication of the students to the mission, the apparent ease with which they run the program--including their website, fundraising efforts and communication skills--and the added lengths that the program has gone through to deliver the medical supplies that they collect to missions that they care to support in the developing world."

"Once a short list was created based on criteria which included length of successful program, dedication of staff, volume of supply recovery and overall dedication to furthering the REMEDY mission," she added, "UChicago was undeniably our first choice to receive the inaugural award."

Each year, leadership of the Pritzker REMEDY torch is passed to incoming first-year students. During summer 2007, the REMEDY UChicago team scheduled a two-week visit to set up health clinics in the Dominican Republic.

The 23 medical students, as well as three University of Chicago undergraduates, partnered with several urban hospitals in the Dominican Republic and three non-profit organizations to provide care in their service communities.

Working with Minal Giri, MD, a Chicago-based pediatrician and Pritzker alumnus, the first-year students helped treat more than 100 children with bacterial infections, scabies, worms and scleroderma, a skin disease.

They also helped assess the health of new mothers and their babies at a settlement for sugarcane workers outside the southern coastal province Barahona.

The students support a different mission project each year. Chicago's REMEDY program not only collects medical supplies, they also go to a developing country for hands-on interaction with the local community.

"We had complete control of what we wanted to do and what we wanted this project to be," said Cameron Nienaber, co-president of REMEDY UChicago. "Getting an understanding of the social and economic situation of the country was a one-of-a-kind experience."

REMEDY UChicago collected more than $35,000 for the effort, raising funds by auctioning off outings with medical school professors to restaurants and sporting events, including a friendly round of golf. The group's speed-dating fundraiser at the university's Graduate School of Business attracted hundreds of graduate students.

With the money they raised, the students purchased more than a ton of supplies, including an EKG machine, and medicines, such as antibiotics and anti-parasitics, for communities in the Dominican Republic. They also received donated supplies from the University of Chicago Medical Center, particularly the pediatric intensive care unit and Pari Respiratory Equipment Inc.

"This was a cool reprise from sitting and studying an anatomy book for hours and hours," said Sahil Mehta, co-president of REMEDY UChicago. "It reminded me of why I went to medical school in the first place."

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