Mission Field: Texas

August 29, 2016

Medical mission work is not new to Dr. Geoffrey Odom, an ESP emergency medicine physician who works at Providence Health Center in Waco, TX. But his most recent trip, in August 2016, changed his perspective. Odom participated in a one-week domestic medical mission trip in his home state of Texas.

“I had gone an international medical mission trip to Guatemala earlier in the year, and for me the thought of a domestic trip seemed somehow different or less significant, but I couldn’t have been more wrong,” Odom said. “I very much enjoyed going abroad to help people with little or no access to health care, but the mission trip here in Texas was a wonderful experience and not at all what I expected.”

Odom’s travel team included eight Baylor University pre-med students and one Baylor academic staff member. The group traveled to and volunteered in three small towns in the Brownsville area, along the southern border. They stayed and slept at a small community church in Olmito, Texas.

Daily activities varied and were preplanned by two student coordinators, Kaitlyn and Maria. The group spent a lot of time providing medical care at homeless shelters, in established free clinics, and at Odom’s favorite site, a clinic set up in a church school.

Dr. Geoffrey Odom works in an ultrasound clinic in the Rio Grande Valley

Dr. Geoffrey Odom, shown here with a student volunteer, works in a makeshift ultrasound clinic set up in a church in the Rio Grande Valley.

“During the day, it may have been ‘Ms. Smith’s’ pre-K classroom, but in the evening, the room was cleared and it was the cardiac exercise stress clinic or the OB screening and ultrasound clinic,” Odom said. “This clinic and one of the free clinic sites was run by a local volunteer family physician whom we assisted during our stay. One of the most rewarding experiences to the trip was being able to interact with him and several of the local family medicine residents, and seeing their passion for domestic indigent medical care.”

Other non-medical activities the group assisted with included cooking, serving and cleaning at a free community kitchen called “Loaves and Fishes,” where they also interacted and talked with those who came in–and the lines were long. Another day was spent at a Texas state group home for children ages 6 to 18.

“I think most ER physicians have seen group home patients at their worst, but to talk and play with them, at their home, was eye-opening,” Odom said. “I met many children who were bright, personable, and full of dreams. It was hard to hear some of their stories and what they had been through in life, usually through no fault of their own.”

The mission team also learned from one another.

“I believe one of the most unrecognized benefits of a trip like this is meeting the people you go on the mission trip with, hearing their plans for the future and their stories, and feeling and feeding off their energy for compassionate care,” Odom said. “Also, the interactions with the people you care for seem to be influenced by the understanding that you’re there to help them, in their community, by your choice, as a volunteer. Their appreciation, even for the smallest thing, is leaps and bounds above most of the interactions I get at my local ED.”

Dr. Odom's medical mission team at a community kitchen near Brownsville

Odom’s team worked at a community kitchen as part of their medical mission in the Brownsville area.

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About Emergency Service Partners, L.P.

Founded in 1988, Emergency Service Partners, L.P. is a physician practice management group specializing in hospital emergency departments (EDs). The physician-owned and physician-managed partnership serves more than 35 EDs across Texas. In addition, ESP provides pulmonary, intensive care, sleep medicine, and obstetric hospitalist services in Central Texas.