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SBU’s Students Without Borders serves hundreds during Dominican Republic medical mission

Apr 25, 2024 SWOB medical mission 2024_a

While Hanover, Massachusetts, native Taylor Crimi has always had a passion for mission trips, the recent St. Bonaventure University Students Without Borders (SWOB) medical mission to the Dominican Republic validated that medicine is indeed her true calling.

Crimi, who will earn a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies degree in May, was one of 32 students who staffed a medical clinic during spring break in the remote sugarcane village of Batey Alemán.

“The people we cared for face severe marginalization and scarce resources,” Crimi said. “Being able to help them and see a positive outcome was so rewarding.”

Accompanying the student team were three faculty members and three clinical practitioners who served as preceptors.

“Our goal was to see patients, provide service learning and expose the students to different cultural aspects of medical care,” said Jeff Szymanski, clinical assistant professor and director of didactics in St. Bonaventure’s DePerro School of Health Professions.

During the course of one week, the students provided free medicine and medical education to nearly 520 patients ranging in age from three months to 90 years old. The team worked in two shifts, taking vital signs, assessing conditions and then determining a care plan for each patient, which a preceptor then reviewed for approval.SWOB medical mission 2024_b

The group brought the majority of medication with them as well as specialized dressings, splints and slings, along with lab equipment for such things as pregnancy tests, rapid strep tests and urine analysis. Common illnesses they treated include upper respiratory infections, chronic hypertension, urinary tract infections, various types of wounds, and symptoms brought on by diabetes. 

“We focused on educating the patient,” Crimi said. “For instance, a number of people presented with chronic headaches, so we discussed increasing hydration and minimizing time in the sun. For those with diabetes, we talked about the importance of food choices and steering clear of foods high in sugar and fat.”

Partnering with SWOB and overseeing logistics was Pathway Dominicana, a nonprofit missions organization in San Pedro de Macoris. Pathway provided transportation as well as translators familiar with medical terms. The dominant languages spoken in the area are Spanish and Haitian Creole.

“This was immersive, experiential learning,” Szymanski said. “Before heading there, the students spent time discussing cultural competence and how we must embrace the Dominican thought process and understand their expectations.”

For Crimi, who plans to pursue emergency medicine following graduation, the trip offered invaluable cross-cultural communication and clinical experience.

SWOB 2024 medical mission 2024 imageThe recipients of our care were predominantly sugarcane workers and their families,” she said. “It was important to understand their beliefs and traditions. Someone from the Dominican Republic wants you to sit with them and gain their trust before telling them to take a medication. Knowing their culture helped us provide better care.”

The medical mission was made possible by private donations from the Olean medical community and through SWOB fundraising efforts such as last fall’s spaghetti dinner and haunted house event on campus. These events will now become an annual tradition, Crimi said, strengthening ties between the community and the physician assistant program.

To join a future SBU SWOB medical mission or to make a donation, please contact Bryanna Paulson, the group’s incoming president, at To learn more, find them on Instagram (@sbu_swob) and Facebook (@SBUSWOB).