You may just encounter these future physicians on your next doctor’s visit. These third year medical students from the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine are getting hands-on experience working under the guidance of cotrs right here in the Mesilla Valley.
Written by Jessica Salopek
Third year BCOM student Zack Taylor put his medical training into practice by joining forces with the Flying Samaritans, a volunteer organization which operates free medical clinics in Baja California, Mexico. The group gets its monikor because many of the doctors, dentists, nurses, translators, pilots and support personal fly to the clinics in private aircraft.
Taylor joined a group of nine other volunteers for an experience that opened his eyes to the limits of medical care in other countries. “I’ve always been interested and motivated to prove aid to those most in need,” he said. “Being a medical student and a Spanish speaker has allowed me to connect more fully with the Spanish speakers who are in need. When I saw that this group was going to Mexico, I knew it was perfect for me.”
Over the course of two days, Taylor’s tasks included fitting patients with the correct eyeglasses for their visual impairment, serving as an interpreter for other providers, and even fixing equipment in need of repair. He saw an array of medical conditions ranging from diabetes and hypertension to chapped lips.
“We also saw other more rare or complicated situations,” he said. “One was a 12-year-old girl with severe cognitive and growth deficits. She is non-ambulatory, can’t speak, and really is functioning at the level of a two-year-old. We felt that the best thing we could do for this young girl was to provide her with a custom designed walking support that would hopefully allow her to build strength and the capability to learn to walk.”
Since there were no trained dental assistants in the group, Taylor also found himself assisting the dentist with tooth extractions and fillings, as well as what he calls “more creative solutions to complex problems,” such as how to perform root canal without anesthesia.
He said, “The biggest take away I had from this experience was how limited medical care can be for some. This applies to both inside and outside of the United States, but when abroad it is so apparent. We were not able to treat everyone that showed up. Since there were only a couple of Spanish speakers, I had to communicate to many individuals that we would not be able to see them because we simply did not have enough time. That was difficult for me. I think that will stay with me for a while.”
Taylor’s best advice for other Flying Samaritan volunteers is to go in with an open mind and be willing to help wherever needed. He said, “I didn’t think I would go to Mexico and help people determine the correct reading glasses or help a dentist remove necrotic teeth, but I did and I am happy that I was able to make an impact.”
Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona, but born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Alma Mater: B.S. from University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point; Master’s in Psychology in Organizational Leadership from Adler Graduate School. Going to medical school is a fourth “re-career” after working in environmental education, working with youth and families with the YMCA, and having my own management consulting business for high-performance teaming & leadership. I feel like medicine is a perfect match of leadership, science, and relationships with patients.
Why BCOM?: The vision and mission of serving the underserved and serving the borderland. The physician shortage is real, and I want to be a part of the solution.
Rotations Completed So Far: Family Medicine, Pediatrics, Internal Medicine and now I’m in Orthopedic Surgery, during which I have been able to see multiple total knee, total hip and total shoulder replacements, ACL reconstruction, fracture reduction, casting, hand surgery, and some outpatient sports medicine. This will inform my future practice in primary care, as so many patients across their lifetimes will have some sort of orthopedic problem.
Lessons Learned: Integrity, trust, communication, and relationships are key to serving patients, and assisting them to regain health and prevent disease. These are also key to working successfully with colleagues and staff that are also serving patients. It’s a team effort!
Perceptions of Las Cruces: There is great need for compassionate health care in the Las Cruces and Alamogordo areas. Physician shortage can lead to physicians/providers becoming complacent or cavalier or burned out and patients can suffer. This is a beautiful area with kind people who are doing their best to do well for themselves and their families, and I sincerely hope some of my fellow classmates and I can continue to practice here after our residency training.
Free Time Fun: Yoga, camping in my Vintage Gulfstream trailer, and hiking with my family. I used to lead wilderness trips for teenagers (canoeing, backpacking and rock climbing) in northern Minnesota. I still own a cabin and 20 acres of land in the Arrowhead area of Minnesota, but I can’t stand being cold anymore – hence why I’ve made the desert my permanent home!
Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona
Alma Mater: University of Arizona for my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics with a minor in Business, and a Masters of Medical Science obtained from Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Favorite Rotation So Far: I have had many favorites during my year. I loved OB/GYN because it was a mix of everything surgery/clinic/continuous care, but it was also my first. I loved general surgery and could have lived in that OR 24/7; the procedures were phenomenal and having the patients wake up and feel better is immediately satisfying. Finally, I loved internal medicine because of the mystery and trying to unravel why a patient is sick and realizing that no two patients respond to the same treatment.
Lessons Learned: Eat when you can.
Osteopathic Benefits: I think that being trained the way we have, we tend to ask different socioeconomic and holistic questions to patients, and I have treated patients I admitted to the hospital with OMT that seemed to alleviate some of their musculoskeletal symptoms.
Free Time Fun: Other than spending quality family time with my husband and two cats, binge watching Netflix and I love playing video games. I recently got Red Dead Redemption II and Fall Out 76 that I enjoy when I can.
Surprising Fact: Per my parents, I am Native American on both sides, Arizona Cherokee (my grandmother was a medicine woman), and Idaho Black Foot.
Future Plans: I have loved everything, so as I keep telling my attending physicians–I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I want to be a doctor.
The Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine (BCOM) at New Mexico State University is the only medical college in the United States with a mission focused on healthcare in the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. Although BCOM is a private and free-standing college that is not a part of New Mexico State University (NMSU), it is very closely affiliated with NMSU and our students enjoy the student life and campus community benefits that come with a major public research university.
In a unique public-private partnership, BCOM’s students have access to many university facilities and services, such as athletics, intramural sports, some health services and recreational facilities.