Our Annual Trip to the D.R. is a month away!

By Lawrence Loh, MD, MPH —-

While most places wind down in December (the old joke is that nothing ever happens in the United States between Thanksgiving and Christmas!), December is going to be a month of major transitions for The 53rd Week. Our McMaster Embedded Learning Experience students are coming home after their study abroad semester with us; theyve been now in La Romana since just after Labour Day and will be heading home in a short week and a half. During their time there, theyve experienced the best of local culture, seen plenty of bateyes, observed interactions between visiting medical and construction teams, and developed valuable skills in global health research and community development. 

The 53rd Week has been very impressed with their significant work ethic; they have now completed two different sets of projects that they will take forward with them for the next few months - a reproductive health knowledge assessment among adolescent girls in the bateyes, as well as a study looking at high school completion rates and distance of bateyes from central La Romana. Our model of telementoring will also be the subject of much evaluation, with all the mentors for the program still remaining based in Canada while our students were on the ground there with our local partners. Hopefully this model could be used as a form of distance education in the future!

At the same time, we are in the midst of preparing for our next trip down to La Romana. This years team consists of about a dozen volunteer physicians, residents, and medical students as well as other healthcare and public health professionals. Our global health outreach team will provide paediatric care while also targeting agreed upon upstream initiatives derived from some of our research and program partners.  These will include evaluating a series of global health case studies for relevance and accuracy, while completing the second phase of our needs assessment that looks at both basic needs and reproductive health needs in the bateyes. Our team will also be the first group to gather information and advocate for the creation of a Department of Batey Health and Welfare at the hospital, a novel proposition.

The goal of ensuring local input and involvement has long been a key tenet of global health programs. The creation of a Department of Batey Health and Welfare as a next step in the collaborative model being developed in La Romana would bring valuable local input to the proposed coordinated model to address upstream, developmental issues, and would bring local leadership into greater planning towards a future state; in essence, guiding the transition for visiting teams to take less resource-intensive downstream role in providing care, and instead visit to help develop and strengthen local capacity through knowledge transfer and health system development.

December is always an exciting time at The 53rd Week, and we need your help to see it through. Consider making a donation to our programs by sending a PayPal payment (click below) to or visiting our website at Honeyfund to see an itemized “registry” of the goods we need for our upcoming trip. We welcome your support as always during this upcoming holiday season. Thanks as always for your support and generosity!  

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