Student sees Rwanda up close
Ten-day medical mission opened eyes of MVHS senior
Vince Cortinas, Jr., a senior at Mountain View High School, could never have predicted that coaching a Little League baseball team would lead to his first trip overseas.
But one of the player's parents, Drew Patterson, was involved with a group called Medical Mission for Children (MMFC) through Stanford Medical Center. Patterson invited Cortinas to come along on one of MMFC's medical service trips to Gitwe, Rwanda, and Cortinas couldn't turn down the opportunity to help others in need.
A national medical service organization, MMFC connects doctors across the U.S. with hard-to-access areas where medical care is most needed, in countries such as Rwanda, Guatemala, Peru, Ukraine, Tanzania and India. In missions to Gitwe, most procedures are cleft lip and goiter surgeries for village residents who have no other access to such help.
Cortinas, along with a team of surgeons and anesthesiologists from Stanford and Northwestern Universities, arrived in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, on Feb. 28, and spent 10 days in Gitwe, a small village about a two-hour drive away, where medical facilities were less than ideal.
"They had a 'hospital,' but it was just a building with empty rooms," Cortinas said.
According to Cortinas, MMFC plans annual trips to Gitwe, but some are postponed because of unrest in the country.
While in Gitwe, Cortinas was able to observe surgeries and took part in other medical tasks. The group also brought other supplies to Rwanda such as pens and paper, which seemed "like gold" to village residents, Cortinas said. He also helped install a computer system that will allow hospitals at Stanford and Northwestern to access medical forms from Gitwe, improving the quality of medical care in the village.
Although the purpose of the trip focused on medical and technical help, Cortinas felt he benefited in other ways.
"My favorite part of the trip for sure was visiting the elementary school in Gitwe," he said. "When we rolled up, the kids just mobbed us — they were so excited."