Volunteers treat patients in underprivileged countries

Volunteer Francesca Raffa provides care for a child during one of the VIDA trips. Courtesy Daniel McCormack

The Costa Rica seen in movies and postcards has picturesque palms, ocean views and plunging waves. Unfortunately, this is not the Costa Rica that most natives experience.

Many Costa Ricans living in rural areas often lack access to doctoral care. Simple illnesses like colds, dengue fever and diarrhea are usually left untreated and result in severe conditions.

Volunteers for Intercultural and Definitive Adventures (VIDA) attempts to meet the need for healthcare. VIDA is a student volunteer organization working to combat these illnesses by making annual trips to third-world countries and providing clinical care to natives, free of charge.

“VIDA gives students a chance to get hands-on experience in the medical or dental field,” said Daniel McCormack, a biology major and the student coordinator for the trip.

The students, along with a certified nurse and doctor, assist in providing patients diagnoses, treatment and medication. During VIDA’s last trip to Costa Rica, a native boy arrived at the clinic complaining of a terrible headache. An examination uncovered a dead bug buried deep in the boy’s ear. An aural rinse dislodged the bug and relieved the boy’s headache.

On a typical trip, students learn to take patient vitals, diagnose common illnesses, administer shots, assist doctors during dental surgeries and much more.

“VIDA helps prospective medical and dental students stand apart from their peers,” McCormack said. “Whereas many can say they have shadowed a doctor, not many can say they’ve treated patients in a third-world country.”

Volunteers can expect seven to eight working hours per day while on the trip, which usually lasts about 11 days. However, these trips are not entirely focused on work.

“On trips, students can learn from experienced doctors, enjoy a different culture, go white water rafting, eat amazing food, meet great people and distinguish themselves from their peers at the same time,” McCormack said.

If you go:

The next VIDA trips to Costa Rica and Nicaragua are scheduled for January 2012.

The final day to apply is Oct. 3. Spots are limited.

For more info, email Daniel McCormack at

September 7, 2011


Ross Ito

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