AdventHealth University (AHU) has a distinctive mission to develop skilled professionals who live the healing values of Christ. But, what do those healing values look like in practice?
As part of their graduation requirements, AHU students must complete a Capstone Project in their final year. They are free to choose the focus of their study, and many students design their projects around personal passions. For Melissa Molina, an AdventHealth University (AHU) physician assistant (PA) student, this passion was nutrition, which she had pursued for her bachelor’s degree before coming to AHU. This interest led to her involvement in a study to reduce iron deficiency anemia in Haitian communities.
As Molina was considering topics for her Capstone Project, her teacher, Ann LeVine, M.D., AHU’s PA medical director, connected her with Stacy McConkey, M.D., a pediatrician at AdventHealth, and her partner, Catherine Loe, M.D. Both women have been going to Haiti for mission work for several years. They told Molina about the dietary challenges in Haiti, and about a product called Lucky Iron Fish that had been used successfully in other iron-deficient communities.
The Lucky Iron Fish is a small iron cooking tool that is added during the cooking process. It infuses the meal with natural iron and is reusable, making it a more affordable way to increase iron in your diet. After researching the company and its product, Molina agreed that it would be the most cost-effective and safe solution to use for her project.
To instruct the cooks in the orphanages she planned to visit, Molina looked for Creole-translated materials through the Lucky Iron Fish company, but found that none existed. Her solution was to create instructional video and printed handouts in Creole with the help of a translator. The video was uploaded to YouTube where the link could be easily shared.
From December 3 to 8 of 2018, she joined Global Missions Initiatives’ Project Operation Sunshine in Haiti along with Loe to visit seven orphanages. Molina described her experience as humbling. “The community lacks many basic needs like electricity and the resources needed to access nutritional food sources.” As she had learned from McConkey and Loe, many children were iron-deficient.
At each facility, she met with cooks and workers to demonstrate how to incorporate the Lucky Iron Fish into their cooking. She showed the instructional video she created and provided laminated handouts with more information. She worked with an interpreter and distributed surveys after she had finished her demonstrations. She prepared quizzes for them to confirm they understood the process and could repeat it without her help.
The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. The workers found Molina’s instructions easy to understand and implement. She recounted the emotion she felt when the cooks expressed gratitude for her efforts, thanking her sincerely and saying, “God bless you.”
For Molina, it was a new experience to see the results of her work firsthand. She said, “I’ve been busy with school, and most of my work so far was behind the scenes at a computer. It was rewarding to see the real-world impact for myself.”
In addition to her Lucky Iron Fish demonstrations, Molina also performed health check visits under the supervision of attending physicians and/or medical residents. To complete the research, Molina will return to the orphanages after a year to check the hemoglobin levels of the people there. She’s also retained contacts for each facility so that she can be reached if they have questions.
Loe followed up with Lucky Fish after the successful trip, and were intrigued by the materials that Molina had created. The company was impressed with her work, and even expressed interest in sharing her materials through social media and wider distribution channels.
Molina is excited to see the project grow. “Creating the video and materials led to more ideas for how we could further develop the project.” She is currently completing her last trimester with AHU, but she said that she sees herself staying with the project and creating more educational materials for other communities in need.
AdventHealth University | March 2019