Dr-Topfer-and-son.jpgEnvision Physician Services Northeast Operations Clinical Leader Steven Topfer, D.O., teamed up with Nova Southeastern University in Florida to serve as a teaching physician during a mission trip to Jamaica in December 2017.

The university’s medical school embarks on a mission trip to Jamaica each year through the Jamaica Medical Outreach program, a volunteer mission to help disadvantaged citizens of the island. The anesthesiologist decided to go last year to accompany his son, a second-year medical student at Nova Southeastern.

During the trip, the team provided primary care to Jamaicans who do not have regular access to medicine. About 80 medical students and 12 teaching doctors went on the trip.

“The purpose of the trip was twofold: it was about providing care to patients in Jamaica, but at the same time, teaching 80 medical students,” Dr. Topfer said. “We taught them clinical skills — how to interview a patient, how to perform a physical exam and how to come up with a sensible treatment plan.”

The medical students — most of whom had not yet regularly interacted with patients — gained experience by treating patients in a makeshift clinic with limited resources and medicine. Dr. Topfer believes the experience will help the future physicians remember why they became doctors.

“I want them to be inspired by what they do in their careers so they don’t get caught up in drama or politics,” Dr. Topfer said. “This gives them an opportunity to be inspired and to maintain focus on their core values and the reason why they’ve worked to become physicians.”

Dr. Topfer and his students faced challenging conditions on the trip. The team set up a makeshift clinic at every new treatment location and worked tirelessly to ensure every patient received care. During the trip, Dr. Topfer observed and treated many patients suffering from conditions like hypertension, diabetes, allergies, growth abnormalities and childhood illnesses.