PSU students don’t just learn on campus in classrooms.

Each year, Gorillas enrolled in Study Abroad venture to countries like Belize, Scotland, Costa Rica, Iceland, and Spain.

Among their many choices: medical mission trips, which provide those preparing for health-related careers the chance to learn hands-on clinical skills while serving patients who have had little access to health care.

For alumni, such trips are a way to give back.

Dr. Miles Crowley (BS ’13), completed his first medical mission trip in 2012 as a student with Associate Professor of Biology Mandy Peak-Bryan.

“We helped set up clinics in Romania, and it solidified my passion to the pursuit of medicine,” said Crowley. “It really served as a tipping point in my journey to becoming a physician.”

He’s now a resident physician in family medicine at the University of Missouri.

The transformative experience of the Romania trip also inspired him to take another medical mission trip this summer with Peak-Bryan and her pre-med students — this time to Mexico, and this time as a doctor.

“Having the opportunity, this time as one of the practicing physicians and student mentors, was an amazing experience to give back,” Crowley said.

The 12 students on the trip, including one pursing a nursing degree and two majoring in psychology, all agreed the lessons learned extended far beyond practical skills.

“The most memorable part of this trip was the human connection I formed with the people,” said Samantha Knoblauch, a senior biology major from Wichita, Kansas, who dreams of becoming an optometrist. “And, this trip gave me more hands-on experience in the field I plan to go into than a classroom ever could. I saw and did things no other senior in college has probably done.”

Dr. Miles Crowley and Associate Professor Mandy Peak-Bryan

Dr. Miles Crowley and Associate Professor Mandy Peak-Bryan

“Having the opportunity, this time as one of the practicing physicians and student mentors, was an amazing experience to give back.” – Miles Crowley

For Orion Battaglia, a senior biology major from Pittsburg who plans to be a physician in cardiology, pathology, or surgery, that included aiding Dr. Neil Bryan (BS ’08) in a memorable procedure in Puerto Escondido.

“He injected a numbing medication into the fascia plane of a patient with severe shoulder pain sustained from a tree fall injury,” Battaglia recalled. “Using both an ultrasound displayed on an iPad and a needle outfitted with a 50 ml syringe, Dr. Bryan was able to provide some much-needed relief to the patient who said that she felt instant effects.”

This marked Dr. Bryan’s fourth trip with PSU students. Now a hospital emergency room physician, he visits campus prior to each trip to teach students how to take pulse and blood pressure, use a glucometer, and other clinical procedures.

Peak-Bryan coached the students on passport applications, clinic setup, trip logistics, packing lists, medications,

and travel safety. In turn, the students made presentations on Mexican history, health care, art, government, wildlife, and medical Spanish.

“It was definitely an eye-opening experience for them,” Peak-Bryan said. “The students learned about medical treatments and conditions, and how these conditions in lower socioeconomic settings may affect people differently — or may change the provided treatment, while also letting the patient know that someone cares.

“This trip gave me more hands-on experience in the field I plan to go into than a classroom ever could. I saw and did things no other senior in college has probably done.” – Samantha Knoblauch

In five days spent in four locations, the group treated 506 patients. Students, who each were responsible for paying their own way, earned two hours of credit in the spring and a credit in the summer. •