By Laura Lennie, News Staff
Frank Battaglia is gearing up for a nine-day medical service mission in the Dominican Republic.
The 18-year-old Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary School graduate and his International Service Learning (ISL) Hamilton Education And Resource Team (HEART) will board a plane on Aug. 3 for Santo Domingo, where they will help provide primary health care aid to those in need.
“The needs of the community of Santo Domingo are always changing, so we don’t know exactly what we’ll be doing; however, we have been told possibilities,” he said. “We could be diagnosing patients, assisting with surgeries, counselling patients, surveying public health, working in the pharmacy, restocking shelves, teaching English and more. We’re there to help better the health of the impoverished in the Dominican and depending on the needs of the community at the time, we’re willing to do whatever they need.”
Battaglia became involved with ISL – an organization whose goal is to partner student and professional teams from developed countries with service opportunities in developing countries – after returning from a mission trip to the Dominican with Cardinal Newman’s Dominican Republic Education And Medical Service program earlier last year. He and his team helped build a home for a family in need.
“I knew that I had to go back to the Dominican and help, as I knew I couldn’t just walk away from all the sickness, poverty and squalor I’d seen,” Battaglia said. “I ran into a friend of my cousin and she mentioned she had just returned from a trip with ISL; she was part of a physiotherapist program and that sparked my interest, as health care is my passion. After looking into the organization, I applied for a team and the rest is history.”
Battaglia began planning his trip to the Dominican and created ISL HEART to help motivate teens interested in bettering the health and lives of the poor find an outlet for their altruistic pursuits.
ISL HEART, made up of 12 students from across Hamilton, has been busy preparing for its medical service mission in the Dominican ever since. The team has held fundraisers and silent auctions to help raise money to purchase scrubs, stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs and otoscopes to use while in the clinics, hospitals and orphanages.
“We've raised over $10,000 in nine months, so it's been a very busy year,” Battaglia said. “Between booking flights, finding a travel doctor and getting the proper vaccinations, buying travel insurance and coordinating our lodging and work locations with our team manager, we've been running around quite a bit. I'm so happy my team has been so amazing and supportive because without them this trip would not be possible.”
Battaglia said ISL HEART also has received a healthy boost of support from the community.
McMaster Children’s Hospital has donated almost all of the supplies the team will be taking to the Dominican, he added.
“The community has been an incredible support – from donating auction prizes to full out sponsorships – the community has been so generous,” Battaglia said. “There are so many people who have supported our venture from the start. For that, we are truly grateful.”
Battaglia said the team hopes its presence in the Dominican will help ease the burden placed on the native health care providers.
“Our goal isn't to be the best and try the most dangerous procedures, but to help comb through the line of people looking for aid and help triage their ailments,” he said. “We want to be able to differentiate between who needs an aspirin from who needs a bandage to who needs to see a doctor. This way, the doctors' time and resources are alleviated, allowing more critical patients to be seen and receive a higher quality of care.”
Battaglia said his hope also is to gain some valuable experience.
“I plan to go into the field of global medical aid; I believe that experience is the best teacher,” he said. “Going forward in my education, I wish to become a tropical medicine or infectious disease physician. Nothing I've done, from co-ops to school courses, will have prepared me more for this career than this trip.”
For more information on International Service Learning opportunities or how to help ISL HEART in its mission, contact Battaglia at email@example.com.