The 53rd Week’s trip to the Dominican Republic (December 2011)

By Heather Lin

Day 1 // día uno

Lawrence, Henry, Heather, and Shu (you can learn more about the team at Our Team) arrived at the airport in the D.R. and taxied to the Good Samaritan Hospital // Hospital El Buen Samaritano // in La Romana.  The hospital was built solely to provide primary health care to the cane cutters who work and live in the bateyes.  It has developed programs to address malnutrition of children and women’s health and also sends medical teams into the bateyes to deliver care to the poor. Upon reaching the hospital, Lawrence and Henry (who had visited the hospital during prior short-term medical missions) remarked on the additional levels constructed to increase inpatient capacity and the new water filtration center supported by Rotary International that was adjacent to the hospital.  It was great to see the Good Samaritan Hospital expanding its imprint in La Romana!

All photos by Shu

There, we were welcomed by Emilio, our host from the hospital.  After dropping off our bags at the renovated hospital hostel, we headed to Jumbo supermarket for provisions.  We ended our night with Emilio by enjoying a nice dinner at a nearby Dominican restaurant that consisted of seafood delicacies, mofongo, and Presidente beers!  Aplausos!

Day 2 // día dos

To prepare for the busiest day of the trip, the 53rd Week loaded up on avena caliente (oatmeal) then headed out to the Family Clinic // Clínica de Familia La Romana //, which is funded by the MIR Foundation (a non-profit organization that works to supply the D.R.’s most marginalized people with a variety of life-altering services through social programs).  The clinic provides comprehensive care and HIV treatment options to the community.  As the country’s second-largest provider of antiretroviral treatment (ART), it provides continuous care for over 2,000 adult and pediatric patients.  We hope to coordinate future visits with the well-established clinic.

Following our visit to the clinic, 53rd Week headed to Bateye 62 (you can learn more about the bateyes at the bottom of Our History), a 30-minute drive from La Romana.  There are over a hundred bateyes harvesting sugarcane that surround La Romana.

Though Lawrence and Henry are familiar with bateyes from prior missions providing medical care to residents, this was Heather and Shu’s first time to the D.R. and a batey.  At Batey 62, we were able to gain a better understanding of batey life and see a church where short-term medical missions typically establish pop-up clinics.

After years of providing acute care to batey patients, Henry and Lawrence (the two doctors of 53rd Week) observed a variety of obstacles – foremost, the lack of continuity of medical care presented a challenge.  Some initiatives, like the hypertension project, have helped standardize some aspects of care, but many challenges still remain:

  • Lack of standardized medical record keeping system
  • Poor record keeping of available inventory, leading to running out of certain medications while in the clinics
  • Individual efforts don’t always seem to be coordinated with local efforts
More information on 53rd Week’s mission can be found at About Us and The 53rd Week.  The 53rd Week will host a clinic for batey residents in 2012.
Following the Batey 62 visit, the 53rd Week drove to the nearest sugarcane field being harvested.  Along the way, we pulled off to the side of the road for a Dominican-style tailgate to lunch.
At the sugarcane fields where workers were harvesting cane, we were able to see how much cane a strong, young man could cut with a machete in a day – 3-4 tons, equivalent to the capacity of one of the railroad cars.
Yes, one strong, young man could cut up to 3-4 tons of sugarcane, represented by the cane being lifted out of the car, in one day.  Very hard labor…
The 53rd Week returned to the Good Samaritan Hospital to meet Moises, the Director of the Good Samaritan Hospital.  There, Shu, the developer of the website that will coordinate care among the 40+ short-term medical missions to La Romana annually, presented the deliverable to Moises.  The 53rd Week hopes that the website will improve coordination of care to batey patients through knowledge sharing on forums, calendar of scheduled missions, and inventory management at the Good Samaritan Hospital.  We expect to release the website for other missions to use in early 2012 and will post when it’s released!

Day 3 // día tres

On our last day in La Romana, the 53rd Week visited a local orphanage.  The children we met and played with were trilingual (Spanish, English, and French).  Afterwards, we visited a public hospital.

Lawrence with Henry and Emilio in the background


Many thanks to Moises, Emilio, and our hostess during our stay in La Romana.

Shu, Our Hostess, Heather, Henry, Emilio, and Lawrence

Day 4 // día cuatro

On our last day in Santo Domingo and the D.R., we walked along George Washington Avenue // Avenida George Washington, and enjoyed the view of the Caribbean Sea.  We stopped by Adrian Tropical, where we enjoyed a hot ginger chocolate drink // caliente con jengibre followed by a starchy meal.

Following brunch, Lawrence and Shu returned to the hotel.  Henry and Heather attempted to find the elusive underground cave in the Mirador del Sur Park // Parque Mirador Del Sur but were unsuccessful.  However, the park was great for strolling nonetheless!

The 53rd Week regrouped at the hotel then headed to the airport – Shu returning to Austin; Lawrence, Henry, and Heather returning to NYC, then Lawrence and Henry returning to Toronto and Philadelphia, respectively.  I (Heather) had a great time on the trip – 53rd Week’s mission crystallized in my mind, and I got to experience the D.R. for a few days.

Stay tuned for happenings on the 53rd Week!

Heather Lin is the Business Development Lead for The 53rd Week; she is based in New York City.

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