NEWCOMB-According to Kevin Bolan, physician assistant at Newcomb Medical Center, it is just something that needs to be done. Bolan recently returned from a week long medical mission trip to the Dominican Republic.
"I am paid to help people," he said. "I welcome the opportunity to help people for no pay. I have to give back."
The trip was sponsored by the Albany Diocese of St. Eustace Episcopal Church in Lake Placid. This was Bolan's fourth trip and third time serving in the Dominican Republic. He has also visited Guatemala in a past trip.
The group of 21 doctors, nurses and other volunteers traveled to the Dominican Republic Feb. 25 and spent half of their time in the inner city village of San Pedro de Macoris and the other half on a sugar can plantation.
"People walked miles from surrounding villages with no shoes to reach us," Bolan said. "For many of them, we were the only medical care they will see all year."
The group delivered medications, vitamins, filtered water and performed treatment for many parasites, blood pressure problems and diabetes within the local villages.
"Water is a big deal there," Bolan said. "We would treat many parasites or fungal infections and then our patients would drink unfiltered water and be exposed to the parasites all over again."
The child mortality rate is dangerously high within the Dominican Republic. This is due, not only to the water problem, but unclean living conditions in general, according to Bolan.
"We approached many small huts where six to 10 people were living," he said.
Bolan paid his own way to attend the trip and was faced with financial burdens this year that he had not encountered before. In the past, pharmaceutical companies would donate the necessary medications for the trip.This year, Bolan had to raise the money himself.
To help compensate for the cost, Bolan hosted an Italian Dinner fundraiser in Newcomb. The event raised roughly $2,000, which went directly to purchasing medication and medical supplies.
"I was absolutely amazed at the charity exhibited in this small community," Bolan said.
He even received volunteer help from those who had little to give.
"A patient of mine, who is without health insurance and has little money to spare was there to help in any way he could," Bolan said.
He also raised another $2,000 in private donations from members of the community. With the $4,000 coupled with subsidized supplies through MAP International, Bolan was able to purchase $26,000 worth of medical supplies and medications with only $1,200.
MAP International is a global Christian health organization that responds to people living in conditions of poverty to meet their medical needs.
The remaining money was used to fulfill other needs once the group reached the Dominican Republic.
"I felt like the whole community was behind me," Bolan said.