Treating Coastal Communities with Floating Doctors

Prior to graduating, Tate Correll, DO’19, traveled to Panama with Floating Doctors, an organization that reduces the spread of disease in underserved coastal communities. After charting a plane from Panama City, she and other medical personnel traveled to Bocas del Toro, an island community accessible only by boat. “It took a considerable amount of work and team effort to pack up, waterproof the medical supplies, and carry everything on foot to set up a mobile clinic,” she said.

Assisted by an interpreter, she treated 58 patients during her week-long stay. Two cases stood out to her for the lessons they reinforced. The first was that of a three-year-old girl who was “not gaining weight.” A physical exam was performed and revealed a distended stomach. She was diagnosed with soil-transmitted helminths, a parasitic infection and a common occurrence in Panama, which was treated with Albendazole. The case highlighted the importance of being aware of a patient’s environment when formulating a treatment plan.

The second case involved a nineteen-year-old patient who presented with complaints of “headache, dizziness, and back pain.” During her physical examination, she confessed she had made up the symptoms and was actually interested in family planning services, which she did not think would be viewed as a health care need. “It can often be overlooked that family planning is a legitimate health concern and certain cultures may feel more hesitant about discussing it,” said Dr. Correll. The patient was administered a depo shot. A follow-up system established by Floating Doctors will ensure a continuation of the shots for the patient.

Overall, the experience was deeply rewarding and one that she would recommend to anyone interested in global medicine. “Floating Doctors does an incredible job meeting the community where they are to provide care. I will always keep in mind the many factors that contribute to getting patients the care that they need and deserve.”

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