July 14, 2023

Uniting Faith and Pharmacy: Students’ Journey of Service in Honduras

Heart & Soul

One sunny morning in the middle of May, a Honduran woman walked into an eyeglass clinic set up by Palm Beach Atlantic (PBA) University’s Gregory Center for Medical Missions. She was browsing the options and stumbled upon a pair that she adored, but to her dismay, her vision was still blurry after trying them on – the prescription was not strong enough; she reluctantly settled for a different option that worked for her eyesight.  A woman working with PBA rummaged through the eyeglass suitcase one more time in a last-ditch effort to find the pair she liked. Sure enough, to the Honduran woman’s delight, the very last pair in the style she wanted happened to be the exact prescription and size she needed.

Samuel Statdlander, a student in PBA’s Lloyd L. Gregory School of Pharmacy (GSOP), recounted this story in vivid detail. “It doesn’t matter where you are, or who you are, God knows the desires of our hearts,” he said. “Somewhere in Honduras, God had in mind that those particular glasses, at that particular power, in that particular style, were going to be set aside for that woman who loved them. It showed me that God sees you, no matter where you are.”

On May 20, Dr. Chip Wight and Dr. Jocelyn Freimuth took five students to Honduras to serve the local community for eight days, offering hope and healing to those who lived there. While providing dental and pharmaceutical care, eye examinations, triage and more, the team worked tirelessly to meet the physical, spiritual and emotional health needs of the people.

Gladimarys Aviles was among the five PBA students who attended the mission trip. The Puerto Rican native moved to Florida for pharmacy school after finishing her undergrad in chemistry. “I immediately fell in love with PBA and the Gregory School of Pharmacy,” she said. “I have always had a passion for missions, and when I saw that PBA combined both pharmacy and missions through the Gregory Center for Medical Missions, I knew it was the place for me.”

During their trip, the team visited some of the locals living in the mountains of Honduras, hoping to bring care to those in need. Gladimarys recalled that day, describing the home of a particular Honduran woman.

She lived in a brick house with four walls. It did not have a roof, doors, or a bed – just a chair and a blanket. “It was basically four walls and cement,” said Gladimarys. “However, this woman was the happiest person I have ever seen in my life. Her joy radiated through her, even though she had nothing. When we asked her about her joy, she told us, ‘I have everything I need because I have Christ.’ I have never been more inspired by someone’s faith.”

Isaac Tapia decided he wanted to become a pharmacist while bagging groceries at Publix. He was in eighth grade working as a bagger when he saw a customer go into anaphylactic shock. The pharmacist on shift administered the EpiPen, saving the customer’s life. Tapia was captivated, and in his senior year of high school, he began working in the pharmacy department at Publix. Years later, Tapia found himself in his fourth year of pharmacy school and attending his first medical mission trip with PBA. Tapia spoke about the life-changing experiences the team encountered on the trip to Honduras, and he said he would highly encourage other students to consider attending if at all possible.

“We learn about implementing servant leadership and faith into our work almost daily in class, but it can be hard to picture in a real-world scenario. I will be counseling a patient on medication, and I often question how I can integrate my faith into that conversation,” Tapia said. “I think everyone should go on a mission trip because it showed me how to integrate faith and work in the real world. It was the first time I was able to give recommendations on different therapies, and after it was all done, I was able to pray over my patients.”

Despite the language barriers, cultural, and economic differences, the Lord transformed lives on this trip. Our students returned re-energized and on fire for the Lord after witnessing the resilience of the Honduran community. PBA’s medical mission trips provide students with a global perspective as they go into impoverished communities to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Additionally, it gives them an opportunity to practice the Christlike, servant leadership we try to instill in them daily.

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