Francesca is a junior pre-med student majoring in biology, psychology, and minoring in Spanish here at Mizzou. Her goal is to go to medical school for a pediatric related specialty, right now either nephrology or trauma. Francesca has a huge passion for other cultures and public health. Her favorite thing in the world is to immerse herself in a culture learning their language, trying their food, and learning about their lives. Francesca loves being outdoors whether it's doing all kinds of water activities at the lake, hiking, or snow skiing every winter. She has an identical twin sister and has been to nine different countries. She went on our medical brigade to Panama in January of 2016. Francesca is a program director for our two week hybrid medical/ public health brigade to Honduras in May of 2017.
What is something funny or odd that happened to you in country?
“I tried a maracuyá, a passion fruit, from the market, and it was the most sour, strangest texture, and horrible thing I've ever eaten. Our translator told me it would be sweet as a prank. We all laughed and naturally everyone else tried it and agreed. Passion fruit flavored things in the states are not truly passion fruit flavored. Maybe passion fruit flavored with about a gallon of sugar. Trying different foods and things while in country can be wonderful or a powerful teaching moment. I also was asked by a lot of the children in country if my own children were back at home in the states, as most women have children around the age of 15. They thought I was 30 and could have been a grandma. They thought I was crazy to not have my own children!”
What was your favorite food served in country?
“The avocados are almost as large as my face. I ate them with a spoon for breakfast.”
What was a memory that you made while on the brigade?
“My favorite memory from the brigade was talking with some of the physicians and learning about their experiences as health care professionals and how the healthcare system in Panama operated. They are so humble and generous. One of the doctors was using her vacation days from the hospital to be here. Their passion for their profession was such an encouragement to me as a pre-med student.”
What was your favorite thing about working in country?
“My favorite thing about working in country was the relationships I formed with the community members during all aspects of the brigade: triage, charla, and consultation. I was able to learn about their lives, their struggles, and provide a resource to them needed so desperately. These people trusted us with their past by telling us their medical history, with their health by allowing us to treat them and prescribe medications, and with their children during charla. I learned about a woman’s stage 4 cancer and her lack of funds for treatment and the little time left she has. I grew close with three year old Abraham as he learned the song to brush your teeth and stole probably a million stickers. It's truly an eye-opening and humbling experience that I wouldn't trade for anything.”
Do you have any advice for new brigaders?
“Learn as much Spanish (for Panama, Nicaragua, and Honduras) as you can before your brigade. It will make your experience so much more meaningful if you're able to communicate or try to communicate with the members in country. Be open to new experiences, cultures, and people. You can get so much out of going on a brigade if you're open minded and make some incredible friendships that will last when you come back to Mizzou.”
"I knew the potential a brigade had to impact my life but I never could have predicated how much I would grow as a person and how such a short time in country could completely capture my heart and foster a passion for global health and people."