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Medical Outreach Across Borders

Medical Outreach Across BordersATufts School of Medicine professor’s program helps Massachusettshigh schoolers and Tufts medical students learn about health carein Central America while providing much-needed outreach services. Boston

Boston [01.14.05] Bolton, Mass., and Nicaragua don’t have a wholelot in common, but at least one thing they share is the commitmentof Dr. Brian Lisse. Over the last few years, the TuftsMedical School professor has run a “Nashoba in Nicaragua”program that helps medical and high school students gain experienceworking in an underdeveloped country while providing its residentswith important medical services.

"We aren'tthe great white gringos, going in there with all the answers,"he told his hometown paper, the Bolton (Mass.) Common."They have knowledgeable doctors there - they just don'thave the right resources."

The impoverishedNicaraguan town of Siuna, with a population of 11,000, is thebeneficiary of Lisse’s program, which annually dispatchesa team of Tufts medical students and personnel to treat patientsand educate residents about health issues.

The path fromBolton to Siuna is one that Lisse did not plan for but has wholeheartedlyembraced. After twice winning a high school contest that let himintern at the National Institutes of Health, he wanted to starta similar program of his own. With the help of a lot of footworkand fundraising, the program is successfully off the ground.

"I startedout in medical school wanting to save the world. And there I was,running a bake sale at the Bolton Fair," he told the paper.

Inspired byhis grandfather, a rural doctor in Maryland during the Great Depression,Lisse went into medicine. He is now an associate clinical professorof emergency medicine at Tufts.

A doctor fromthe Lahey Clinic first proposed the outreach program to Lisse,and he seized the opportunity. In the group’s first trip,Lisse and a group of physicians worked closely with Nicaraguandoctors, helped staff clinics and delivered immunizations.

Lisse toldthe Common that one of the biggest problems Siuna faces is a lackof potable water, due to contamination from mining and a decreasedwater supply resulting from deforestation.

After hisfirst trip to Nicaragua, he instituted the “Nashoba in Nicaragua”program to give high school students a chance to experience medicalfield work in a developing country and learn about other culturesand the socioeconomic issues that affect other countries.

The winnerof a yearly competition at NashobaRegional High School gets an all-expense paid trip to Nicaraguato work with the Tufts team doing anything from translation toassisting doctors.

The culturalexposure pays great dividends for Lisse and his team.

Lisse is involvedwith community health efforts at home, as well. He is an advisorto the Malden-based SharewoodProject, a group of Tufts doctors and students that providesfree health care services to local residents without enough moneyto pay for care.

As for "Nashobain Nicaragua," Lisse plans to keep the program going fora while – long enough, he hopes, to have his children visitCentral America one day.

"A triplike this is a life-changing experience," he told the Common.






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