Pre-medical in Panama: Global Medical Brigades to offer hands-on fieldwork for students

With over 90,000 volunteers in the past 20 years, Global Medical Brigades has provided 1,445,721 patient consultations across its communities.

By Sarah Gallaher | Staff Writer

Learning often takes place in a lab, but Baylor students have the opportunity to provide direct patient care to people in Panama. In partnership with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas chapter, Baylor students can volunteer with Global Medical Brigades — an international movement advocating for sustainable health care systems — to gain hands-on experience in the medical field.

Since Baylor does not have its own Global Medical Brigades chapter, Plano junior Tyler Selkin partnered with Las Vegas junior Macy Perkes, a former Baylor student who transferred to UNLV, to participate in the Panama trip.

“We’re combining two schools to accomplish one common goal, and that effort can be extended beyond just Baylor and UNLV,” Perkes said. “Hopefully, in the future, we can collaborate with even more schools.”

Although most volunteers from Baylor and UNLV are on the pre-medical track, it is not a requirement. Selkin and Perkes encouraged anyone with a heart for service to join.

“What’s amazing about this organization is you don’t have to be a pre-medical student to volunteer abroad with us,” Perkes said. “The only requirement that we have is that you want to volunteer and that it’s something you’re passionate about and enjoy.”

With over 90,000 volunteers in the past 20 years, Global Medical Brigades has provided 1,445,721 patient consultations across its communities. Student volunteers work with medical professionals to provide care, focusing on communities in Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Ghana, Belize and Greece. Perkes said the national organization has been connected to Panama for over 10 years, so it was the perfect choice for the chapter’s first destination.

“They’ve been there the longest, but also it’s the place out of other options where care was needed to the highest extent,” Perkes said.

To Selkin, traveling outside of the U.S. to provide medical care is an essential experience for those pursuing a career in the medical field. Although there are problems within the U.S. health care system, there is a greater degree of sustainability than in developing countries like Panama.

“We’re going to communities that lack access to a lot of important health care resources, and we’re bringing those in and helping these communities utilize them,” Selkin said.

Selkin and Perkes met on a study abroad trip to Dublin, and both wanted to travel internationally again. Combining academics with service on the Panama trip serves as an outlet for their desire to travel.

“[Studying abroad] was a really formative experience for me, so I thought that providing that experience for other people would be something really important I do in my life,” Perkes said.

As a health science studies major, Selkin said volunteering with Global Medical Brigades would be a great opportunity for him and other students on the pre-medical track.

Since it is a Spanish-speaking country, going to Panama will also allow Selkin to practice his medical Spanish — something he considers valuable for medical professionals in areas with a large Hispanic population.

“Any kind of medical volunteering is very highly considered by medical schools, especially if you’re investing so much time,” Selkin said. “A week may not seem like a long time, but you are investing a week of your summer to go to a foreign country, probably somewhere that you’ve never been before, maybe a language that you don’t speak. That is a great chance to talk about cultural immersion and diversity. It’s a great opportunity to expand not only what you know but to see what else is out there.”

Perkes said volunteering with Global Medical Brigades counts as direct doctor shadowing, direct patient care and medical volunteering, so students looking to build their resumes are encouraged to attend. However, Perkes believes volunteering can do so much more.

“As much as it’s cool and valuable to have an experience like this on your resume, it extends beyond that,” Perkes said. “It’s a demonstration of character.”

The trip is one week long and will take place from Aug. 16 to 23. The base cost for the trip is $1,980, excluding airfare, but students with certain medical certifications, like emergency medical technicians, can attend at a reduced cost. Students interested in attending must commit by April 12 with a $150 deposit.

Selkin hopes to recruit more Baylor students for the trip and believes volunteering is a great way to make a nationwide impact.

“I saw a tremendous opportunity to really help a lot of people in a very specified, targeted, precise way,” Selkin said. “We are a select few, and we are trying to make the biggest impact that we can in the week span that we’re there.”

Students interested in attending can sign up online or contact Selkin at 972-730-7331 or via email at