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Local News

Local Volunteers Headed to Haiti on Medical Mission

A Sansum Clinic doctor, nurses, a pre-nursing student and church parishioners will provide health care and food for people in Port-au-Prince

On Friday morning, Santa Barbara City College pre-nursing student Billy Spencer has two things on his to-do list.

First, he'll take his final exam for one of his summer courses at the community college. Then he'll drive to the Los Angeles International Airport and board a flight for Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

He'll be with a team of about 15 people, which includes a local Sansum Clinic doctor, going to the country for a week to hold a medical clinic for people in need.

Spencer has been on this trip twice before, and the Santa Barbara resident was invited on the trip in 2012 after his father ended up in the office of Dr. Tom Anderson, who works at Sansum Clinic's Urgent Care facility on Hitchcock Way.

Spencer's dad noticed photos on the wall of Anderson's prior Haiti trips — this year's is his 17th trip there — and told Anderson about his son, who was enrolled in San Marcos High School's Health Careers Academy.

Anderson asked Spencer to come along and help on the trip, which was the then-senior's graduation gift.

Now, Spencer is enrolled in SBCC's pre-nursing program and hopes to start officially in the nursing program next spring. 

He's working as a patient care technician at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital and said his dream job is to work as a flight nurse for CalStar.

While in Haiti, he will be working with Anderson to treat patients that come into the clinic, which is being hosted in a downtown Port-au-Prince church.

Several local nurses and other residents will also be going, including Oceanhills Covenant Church Pastor Jon Ireland and members of the church, which is sponsoring the trip.

The group will be staying at Child Hope International, a Christian nonprofit orphanage that has a stateside office in Montecito.

Haiti medical
Billy Spencer checks a patient's blood glucose level during his 2012 trip to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Billy Spencer courtesy photo)

"A lot of the things we treat are like checking people for high blood pressure, giving them enough medication for a couple of months," Spencer said, adding that people view the medical clinics as a primary care setting.

However, sutures aren't out of the ordinary, and working with the patients is very rewarding, he said. 

"I'm able to help as the doctor needs me," he said. 

The reality of the devastating earthquake that took place there in 2010 still has reverberations in the community, he added.

"It's a one-to-one type interaction," he said. "A lot of them still have pain from injuries they sustained in the earthquake, so hearing their stories is so meaningful." 

Chelsey Jones, who is also going on the trip, is an intern at Child Hope International and has been to Haiti once before.

"There's a lack of consistent health care," she said, adding that she expects long lines of people waiting to see Anderson and his medical team.

Those going on the trip who aren't in the medical field will be operating a feeding program for children across the city.

Jones said she's excited for new members of the team to connect with Haiti's culture and the people.

"The people in Haiti have so much joy and are so grateful," she said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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