February 17, 2012 11:25 AM

MEDLIFE Role Models: Saying Farewell to an Inspiring Student Leader

Written by  Lindsay Bigda
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tommy pamplonaMEDLIFE has always been led by extraordinary individuals bent on committing their time, resources, and knowledge to bring Medicine, Education and Development to Low Income Families Everywhere. Tommy Flint has been no exception. As Tommy ends his career with MEDLIFE, our team wishes to extend our gratitude not only for his work as a staff member, but also for his admirable sense of integrity and compassion.

Beginning his MEDLIFE journey in 2009 as an intern in Riobamba, Ecuador, Tommy began assisting MEDLIFE's small staff of three in its mission to improve the overall welfare and health of remote communities in Ecuador. Working with our staff, Tommy was asked to wear multiple hats by providing assistance to the MEDVIDA staff during Mobile Clinics, assisting with patient follow-up, and serving as the liaison between MEDVIDA and all the passionate volunteers in the United States. During 2010 Tommy continued his efforts with MEDLIFE by relocating to Lima, Peru to assume the role of Director of Student Operations in the USA and to aid in expanding MEDVIDA's work into Peru. Working with staff in both MEDLIFE's operations in the USA and in Peru, Tommy worked tirelessly to provide Medicine, Education and Development to MEDLIFE's patients. Tommy aided in MEDLIFE's growth of nearly two-fold over the past year. 

Tommy has contributed to helping MEDLIFE's name become synonymous with excellence, integrity and outstanding quality and service to the communities it serves. Keeping with the vision of MEDLIFE's simple yet goal-focused mission has provided a stepping-stone for MEDLIFE's constant growth -- one which MEDLIFE will use to reach even greater heights.

At a glance:

  • 2009 – MEDLIFE Year-long intern: Riobamba, Ecuador
  • 2010 – Director of Student Operations: Helped establish MEDVIDA's operations in Peru, aided in MEDLIFE's first ever community development project 
  • Fall 2011 – Director of Operations USA - Was part of a team that helped MEDLIFE's student chapter base grow from ~ 25 to 52 universities

Written by MEDLIFE Director of Student Operations, Joseph Tylutki

tommymontageA few words from Tommy:

Arriving alone at the Riobamba, Ecuador bus station to begin my MEDLIFE internship on Sept 15, 2009, I imagine that I had many of the same hesitations and concerns that most MEDLIFE Mobile Clinic participants initially face. Who will be picking me up? Will I be staying in a mud hut? Do they have internet here? Is it okay that I don't speak much Spanish? And, my most pertinent question: What is it the MEDLIFE does, anyways?

After receiving a gracious welcome from MEDVIDA Director Martha Chicaiza, many of my preoccupations were quickly alleviated. I lived with her and another intern, Isa, in a cozy apartment (I slept in the living room) with running water (not potable), electricity (excepting the daily outages), and, thankfully, internet access (abysmally slow). But although I spent the following months shadowing and assisting Martha in her work, I still found myself struggling to answer a question frequently posed by friends and family back home: So, what exactly do you do down there? While I could define the fundamentals of our operation -- at that time, primary care Mobile Clinics and dedicated patient follow-up care -- it still seemed I was leaving out some essential aspect of MEDLIFE's work.

Over the past two and half years, as the number of universities participating in MEDLIFE's mission has expanded nearly ten-fold, the answer to that question has become even more complex. Our Mobile Clinic program has grown to offer not only a much more varied array of medical services and exams, but also a blossoming educational component. Undergraduate students continue to serve in summer and year-round internships, preparing them for future careers in international development and global health. The most exciting innovation came from the creation of the MEDLIFE Fund, where projects are defined not by MEDLIFE staff, but rather by the needs and desires of the poor communities with which we work. In 2012, MEDLIFE will build stairs in Lima, conduct Pap smear exams and STI screenings, promote child nutrition educational campaigns, construct schools and bathrooms in Ecuador, extract teeth and fill cavities, train student leaders, and provide thousands of people with a consult with a doctor. Can all of that be boiled down into a single mission statement?

Recently, as I reflect on my own involvement with MEDLIFE, I've decided that the most relevant question isn't 'What is MEDLIFE?', but rather, 'Who is MEDLIFE?' MEDLIFE is Carlos Benavides, a former community leader who spends his evenings not at home with his family, but rather in the urban slum of Pamplona, seeking out hillside communities that would benefit from a concrete stairway. MEDLIFE is Jose Rodriguez, a Peruvian doctor who attends to each Mobile Clinic patient with an uncommon level of sensitivity and patience -- for some patients, it may be the first time a doctor has treated them with sympathy and respect. It's Martha Chicaiza, who has dedicated seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, towards the MEDLIFE cause since the first day I met her. It's every single student volunteer who arrives in Latin America full of hope, ambition, and the unshakeable urge to lend a hand to those in need. MEDLIFE is each patient who, after graciously receiving medical treatment, humbly and hopefully requests that MEDLIFE help a sick relative, or that we return to build a set of stairs outside of their home.

MEDLIFE is a group of incredible people, each of whom provide a unique skillset and perspective to our mission. It's a work ethic that demands that we all be ready to do whatever it takes, whenever it takes, to get the job done. It's a mentality that puts the needs of our patients as a top priority. It's a firm belief that our dedicated efforts can lead to long-term improvements in the lives of the poor.

I wish I could list here every single MEDLIFE staff member and intern, and recite their positive qualities and the impression they've made upon me. I wish I could personally tell each student volunteer that their enthusiasm for MEDLIFE's mission is what has driven my work since I arrived in 2009. And I wish I could tell each patient that there are thousands of MEDLIFE supporters in the USA and Canada that care about their well-being.

As I've now superceded my initial three-month commitment to MEDLIFE by some 27 months, the time has finally come for me to seek out new opportunities. I'm profoundly grateful to have met and worked with MEDLIFE staff, interns, and volunteers, and entrust that they will continue to fight for MEDLIFE's cause for years to come. Thank you to everyone who has supported me during my time here.

Sincerely,

Tommy Flint

Last modified on February 20, 2012 10:01 PM

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