Sean McKenna on HOMBRE and RGHA

The physicians and nurses and support teams here at the VCU Medical Center are engaged in an array of amazing international medical efforts around the world and throughout the year.  RGHA is truly proud to be a part of this group of people— and joining the HOMBRE team has really had a terrific impact on our work and on the work that I see us doing in the future. This year the HOMBRE team is led by Dr Mark Ryan from Family Medicine and includes two different programs in Honduras (Norte and Pineras), a trip to the Dominican Republic and our trip to Peru.  The VCUMC programs are not limited to these opportunities but for now those are the only programs that are included in “HOMBRE.”

HOMBRE used to stand for Honduras Outreach Medical Brigada Relief Effort, as the program began in Honduras. Since growing to include several other Latin American destinations we are planning to adjust the name and will most likely change Honduras to Healthcare.  Peru brings some great new opportunities and ideas to this group- not only are we the only South American destination but we can also share our incredible experiences with our in-country partners, Pan Peru, and can offer unique perspectives by integrating with already established medical efforts in Pampas Grande and rounding at several Peruvian hospitals.  As the newbies in the group, the challenge is to make sure we bring as much to the table as they have to offer us, which will be a great goal for us to set for ourselves. These guys really have it down and the experience they offer their students is really terrific. By working with them, and by building from their models, I know that our medical student experience will be even better than it already is—which I think is saying a lot.

RGHA and HOMBRE team members at a hospital in Huaraz, Peru (Summer 2013). Photo courtesy of Ranya Abi-Falah (M2, VCU School of Medicine). 

The HOMBRE program just recently completed its selection process, and we now have the names of the medical students and pharmacy student (all first years) that will be joining us in June.  RGHA is very excited to welcome these individuals to the team and will have them write some blog entries over the coming weeks: Kara Keefe, Jackie Britz, Jason Barnes, Sherna Sheth and Sarah Nowalk. These students, along with the students assigned to the other locations, will begin Saturday morning classes in January (1-2/month I think) that will prepare them for the opportunities and challenges of international medical mission work.  Hopefully many of our RGHA team members will be able to attend these classes as well— we are welcome, but it all depends on schedules.

The RGHA team will be busy over the coming months preparing these new students for the trip in June. Soon we will know the names of our UR students as well and will start dividing up the teams into work groups for the different efforts. Hopefully we will be able to get the new medical/pharmacy students up to speed fast and then have them take on leadership roles on different projects. Our trip will run from June 15 to the end of the month, and many of us will hopefully be able to head to Cuzco following those 2 weeks. Dr Mayes has been able to put together some terrific opportunities for our team to participate in his summer study class and to benefit from some of his long-standing connections he has made in nurtured. I for one am definitely hoping that I will finally get to experience Machu Picchu.  Everyone asks and I always have to report that even though I have been to Peru for 7 years now, I have never made it to Cuzco or to the most famous destination in South America.

For now I will leave you with 2 HOMBRE links and will hopefully be posting again soon on our progress and plans.



Dr. Sean McKenna is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Pediatrics at VCU Medical Center. He serves as Chair of RGHA and is a member of the HOMBRE board. He has been visiting Pampas Grande since 2007.