Medical missions connect healthcare professionals and student volunteers with the communities that need them, thus increasing their access to quality healthcare. A total of six IMU students and ten alumni from the Dentistry, Psychology, Medicine, Biomedical Science and Pharmacy programmes participated in a humanitarian outreach mission in rural Laos from October to November 2016. They were guided by Prof Khoo Suan Phaik, A/Prof Stefan Kutzsche and Hildegunn Kutzsche. The humanitarian medical mission was conducted under the auspices of the Humanitarian and Love Mission, led by a Singaporean team, and was approved by the Lao Ministry of Health and supported by the ambassadors of Singapore and Malaysia to Laos. Students and alumni helped to provide treatment and consultation as well as patient education on tooth brushing, hand washing, hygiene, nutrition, breastfeeding, prevention of illness and maternal and child care. Daily debriefing and self-reflection of all participants added to the service learning. During the 3 days, students were given the opportunity to also help with the logistics and organisation in a busy environment to improve their ability to handle ambiguity and be open to change as well as to become more flexible. They developed awareness, enthusiasm and perspectives towards civic participation. The students’/alumni’s learning outcomes focused on teamwork skills, knowing the context and the partner, communication skills, logistic and professional preparation, anticipation of challenges and acknowledging personal limitations. The mission accomplished its humanitarian goals. It injected new energy and perspectives into the people through solidarity and compassionate care. People were offered treatment and health education so they may better understand their condition and be able to prevent and self-manage certain health problems.
In the words of the IMU participants, “we felt that we have been given a great opportunity to learn through prior mental and professional preparation, then personally experience it at the site – was a very enriching experience”. The project is supported by IMU Cares as part of IMU’s engagement in communities.