Medical mission: Routt County residents will backpack in Peru to reach patients
Two South Routt Medical Center employees are gearing up for a medical mission trip in early June that combines their love of hiking and backpacking with their desire to serve.
Physician Assistant Jenny Schmitt and Medical Assistant Tina Holliday will join a group of medical personnel through Denver-based nonprofit Mountain Medics International from June 3 to 16 backpacking to patients in the Cordillera Huayhuash region near Huaraz, Peru, northeast of Lima.
The group will backpack to rural villages to offer medical, dental and optometric care to remote Peruvians, some of whom have never received medical care, Schmitt said. The plan is to travel more than 70 miles in 11 days, visit eight to 10 villages and treat up to 500 people.
The pair said they are excited to go on the adventure together along with the larger team and look forward to giving back to others on the South American trip.
“When I became a physician assistant, my goal was to work in rural medicine and provide health care to underserved populations,” Schmitt said. “I have wanted to go on a medical mission for many years but haven’t found the right opportunity until now.”
South Routt resident Schmitt has worked in emergency medicine, urgent care, women’s health and pediatrics and earned her master’s degree in physician assistant studies from Southern Illinois University.
“Going on this trip will help remind me of why I went into health care and renew my passion for providing health care to my patients at South Routt Medical Center,” Schmitt said. “I am thankful to my husband and children for their support and going on miles of hiking trails with me to prepare.”
Schmitt said when she mentioned the trip to co-worker, Holliday, her colleague “jumped at the opportunity as well.”
Yampa resident Holliday has lived in Routt County for 30 years and worked at South Routt Medical Center since 2008. She said she enjoys the rewards of taking care of patients and helping others including serving as a volunteer EMT for the Yampa Fire Protection District. Much of her free time is spent in the mountains hiking and enjoying wildlife.
“I am so excited at this opportunity to go to Peru with Mountain Medics to put together my passion for helping others with my obsession of being outdoors seeing new sights,” Holliday said.
The medical workers are required to pay a donation for the trip to help with costs. The pair said if anyone is interested in helping with a donation, individuals can bring a donation to the South Routt Medical Center to 300 Main Street in Oak Creek, or mail at P.O. Box 8, Oak Creek, CO 80467.
Founded in 2005, Mountain Medics charitable organization is focused on the all-around health of impoverished mountain communities and their surrounding areas. The group teams volunteers with local doctors and nurses who know the region and culture to facilitate medical and dental mission trips to provide free clinics to communities with little access or funds to obtain care.
“Influenced by our experience, we have been particularly concerned with the poverty and health care situation in Peru, a society with clear inequities within its blend of indigenous Andean ethnic groups,” according to the organization’s website.
The June trip to the Huayhuash Range means participants trek along with pack animals carrying supplies at elevations higher than 13,000 feet and spend nights in scenic camps and remote villages to work in clinics and public health campaigns. The organization promotes responsible habits that will help reduce the communities’ common problems such as parasites, microbial infections and tooth decay.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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