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Students overcome obstacles to succeed

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Reaching a new generation

Spring 2014

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A Focus On Service

“It’s one thing to hear what doctors say or read about it, but once you’re there it changes your life.”

Coming home mission oriented was certainly the case for Dr. Luis Rodriquez, who received his Doctor of Podiatric Medicine degree from Barry and is currently a third-year resident at Mercy Hospital in Miami.

His participated in the Yucatan Crippled Children's Project, a program started and run by the School of Podiatric Medicine’s Dr. Charles Southerland. Several times a year, Southerland takes a handful of medical residents to Mexico to perform surgeries on dozens of impoverished children suffering from various injuries or deformities in their feet.

“It’s one thing to hear what doctors say or read about it, but once you’re there it changes your life,” Rodriguez says. “What you learn from the surgical aspect is great. But once you see those kids, you put a face to what you’re doing – that makes a difference.”

That feeling has kept Rodriguez going back, six times in all, for grueling three-day stints. The group, usually a handful of students and residents from Barry-affiliated hospital programs around South Florida and a few participating doctors from elsewhere in the U.S., load up the plane with as many medical supplies as they can carry.

“We get there Saturday morning and people are lined up around the block,” says Southerland. “Recently we were down and we saw 135 patients between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. We come home pretty worn out but feeling good about it.”

Southerland started the project after he participated in humanitarian relief to the Yucatan in 1988 in the wake of devastating Hurricane Gilbert. The first surgery was conducted in the Yucatan city of Progreso in 1996. Since then thousands of children have been served, with more 1,400 receiving corrective surgeries.

“The experience has been amazing,” Rodriguez says. “I was able to see a patient who wasn’t walking before and is now walking.”