“On the fourth day of seeing patients,
one of the patients I had cared for the
first day came back and told me that she
had waited over six hours just to see me,”
said a Palmer student who went on a
2004 Clinic Abroad trip to India. “At that
moment, I realized the impact that our
group was having on the community.”
Serving the underserved since 1994
The inspiration for Clinic Abroad came from two mission trips that
took place more than a decade ago. In 1994, Moin Ansari, Ph.D.,
a professor on the Davenport Campus, took a group of students to
India. He was followed in 1995, by Garry Krakos, D.C., Davenport
’79, who did mission work of his own in Haiti with then-student
Leon Taylor—now Dr. Taylor, Davenport ’95—and a team of M.D.s
Today, Palmer’s Clinic Abroad Program sponsors 12 to 15 trips a
year to developing countries in which Palmer senior-level students,
faculty and alumni deliver chiropractic care. Since Clinic Abroad
began, other chiropractic colleges have developed similar programs.
“It provides students with an intense clinical experience in which they
see many patients with a wide variety of conditions and have an opportunity
to apply what they’ve been learning in the classroom and in the
clinic,” said Julie Schrad, M.S., D.C., Davenport ’85. Dr. Schrad oversees
the Clinic Abroad Program as associate dean of Clinical Education.
When students aren’t caring for patients, they’re getting to know
more about the countries they’re visiting.
“Typically there are five to eight clinic days, interspersed with free
time, cultural activities, sightseeing and travel days,” said Coordinator
of the Clinic Abroad Program Lori Curry-Whitcomb, R.N., M.S.
“There are also roundtable chiropractic discussions, clinic debriefings,
moments of extreme joy, exhaustion and emotion too grand
to describe. Somewhere in the process a student transforms into a
doctor of chiropractic.”
Many students also gain new perspectives on their own standard of
living as compared to those in other parts of the world.
“Just seeing the people in poverty on the streets was very intensely
overwhelming for me,” said a student who took part in the June
2006 trip to India. “I actually had to turn my head away a few times
because it was too much. ... You will never hear me complain about
Davenport ever again.”
Clinic Abroad students also help the communities they serve by
donating money and goods to local schools, orphanages and
other groups in need of assistance.
Mapping out a Clinic Abroad trip
A primary factor for choosing a Clinic Abroad trip location
is that it offers little in the way of health care to its residents.
Then, in order for a location to be eligible for a visit, there
must be someone in place at that location to take care of
ground preparations before the group arrives.
Former Davenport Campus faculty member Jim Fallon, D.C.,
Davenport ’84, with Lori Curry-Whitcomb, in the village
of Capao, Brazil, where Clinic Abroad provided care in
“Many times a student or patient will have a connection to a
country and contact the Clinic Abroad Office,” said Ms. Curry-
Whitcomb. Brazil, for example, has been visited the most of
any country because of the large number of Clinic Abroad
Multiple trips have been made to Fiji, India, Madagascar,
Morocco, Vietnam and the Caribbean island of Bequia in
the St. Vincent Grenadines. Even Native American Indian
reservations have been visited. The program avoids, however,
any locations considered unsafe by the U.S. State Department.
Following their return home, students are asked to write a report
about their experience, including its most memorable moments.
After a 2004 Clinic Abroad trip to Morocco, a student wrote, “I
made amazing friends, people from Palmer who I had passed in
the hall a million times but never knew who they were, and
people from Morocco who were awesome and invited me
back to visit them. The patients touched my heart in such
a way that I didn’t want to leave.”
Planting the seed of chiropractic
“While we take these short-term trips to enhance student
clinical education and bring chiropractic care to people in
need,” said Dr. Schrad, “the bigger idea of the program is to
‘plant the seed’ of chiropractic in countries that have no
chiropractic. We’ve had a patient from Nepal and a patient
from Fiji become so interested in chiropractic after receiving
care from our group that they’ve become Palmer students.”