Trip Security and Personal Safety

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The safety and well-being of students on all GMT trips is of supreme importance to us. So much depends upon this as a baseline for everything else that we do on all trips.

We [[including my wife, Pat, &/or our professional guides, assistants, doctors, interpreters] will be there with you and the group the entire time. We will have 1or 2 cell phones. Others will, too. The people we work and often travel with are all from that country and often live in the communities we serve. They, above all, want all of us to be safe. They appreciate our being there & want us to have a good safe trip / clinics, so we will keep coming back. We know them well and they are very protective of us. The other Doctors, guides, interpreters, & assistants are hired from there, so they usually travel, and stay with us.


We always start the trip off discussing safety / precaution measures for your well-being, regarding both security and personal health... e.g. the following: ALWAYS stay with the group...or, at least, in smaller groups of four or more (at least, one of whom speaks Spanish) when you go out to eat in the eve, etc. We encourage our going out to eat, etc. as a full group. At least, ask our guides or interpreters to go with you. Notify us first so we know where and for how long. We want everyone in the hotel by 11 PM…if late, you must have staff members with you. Do not eat fruits / veggies unpeeled or uncooked. Do not buy food from street vendors. Drink only purified bottled water [we will provide]…keep a close watch on your luggage and personals when in public…guard your passport at all times...avoid provocative attire…& much more that we talk about in Orientation. Most of this is common sense wherever you may travel.

The above pertains to PREVENTION of problems, which is of #1 importance.

If someone gets sick, she/he is to notify me, or one of our docs, immediately. I / we have been able to handle everything that has come up so far over nearly 7 yrs of these trips. If needed [e.g. appendicitis], we will take you ourselves to a good hospital in the vicinity. Our local docs and we know which places have good Docs / health care facilities. Of course, we can arrange to fly severe, stable injuries, etc. back to the USA if that seems prudent and best.

So far, there have not been any serious security / health problems on our trips...only minor stuff...probably largely because we are so aware and cautious...and place such a high priority on this. We are perhaps a bit redundant and nagging at times...but repetitive persistence seems to have paid off. Therefore, we will persist with that.

Of course, the staff, my wife Pat, and I also want to stay personally safe / healthy...we would not treat the students any differently.

 Wil Johnson, MD

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One of the patient's that I will never forget were two little girls of the ages 5 and 6, who portrayed symptoms of malnutrition, which I later learned that it was due to the lack of parental/guardian supervision. Apart from their poor health conditions, they also lived in poor living conditions, where both of them had to sleep in the floor and one of them did not own a pair of shoes. After, diagnosing the patients and consulting with each member from my group, we thought that the best GMT can do is to provide both of them with sufficient vitamins, iron tablets, and parasite treatment for at least 2 months. Even then, we thought that giving the little girls these medications was very little in our dispense. This was one of the cases that definitely marked my perspective about the patient's healthcare in third world countries and how the poverty in Panama is incomparable to first world poverty.- Angela, Junior, Hunter College