Five OBU representatives impacted the lives of the people of South Asia by administering medical aid to a region burdened with poverty. The trip to northeast India, arranged and directed by Dr. Brad Jett, OBU professor of biology, spanned from May 23 to July 27.
The missions endeavor was one of nine Global Outreach Trips sponsored by OBU's Avery T. Willis Center for Global Outreach during the summer 2012 semester. More than 60 OBU students, faculty and staff members participated in the trips.
The primary destination for the medical team was Tezpur, India, a city located in the eastern Indian panhandle and home to more than 100,000 people, with many living in poverty. Jennifer Jett, a junior biology major with medical school intent, explained the team's objective.
"As a team of pre-med students, our primary goal was to get experience practicing medicine in a third-world setting," Jett said, who said the team also found ample opportunities to share their faith in Jesus Christ. "We spent a week living in a small remote village working with people who had never heard the name of Christ before. We were also given the chance to help teach at a Summer Bible School for over 400 students from Hindi backgrounds."
Dr. Jett said he had never been to a place with a more diverse set of needs concentrated into one relatively small location as the team found in the area surrounding Tezpur. The team aided in flood relief, distributed medicine to a local orphanage and worked with children with special needs. Students also traveled to many remote villages, assisting in the prevention of various tropical diseases.
India experiences one-fifth of the world's tuberculosis cases, nearly 2 million per year. In fact, residents of India die from tuberculosis at a rate of one every 90 seconds. The number-one cause of fever in the region surrounding Tezpur is "scrub typhus," a Rickettsial infection spread by mites. Malaria also is rampant. Students provided aid to people in this region by administering medications and teaching ways to prevent diseases such as these.
While the team felt an urgency to offer medical attention to the people living in remote villages, the majority of the trip was spent working at the Baptist-Christian Hospital of Tezpur alongside the Indian medical staff. Despite being in an incredibly impoverished area, the hospital has maintained a respectable reputation in the community and made the most of its limited resources, team members reported.
"The Baptist-Christian Hospital (BCH) of Tezpur and its staff are providing quality care (for a 'secondary'-level hospital) at an affordable price (sometimes free-of-charge) as a means of sharing the love of Jesus," said Dr. Jett.
Dr. Jett's connection to the hospital developed when he was invited by Dr. Koshy George, the hospital CEO, to interact with the hospital staff by delivering seminars and lectures to their nursing-school students and teachers; their medical interns and residents; and their microbiology laboratory personnel. In addition to teaching the hospital staff, Dr. Jett conducted research about tropical microbiology in the Indian region surrounding Tezpur. His research will be included in an immunology textbook he currently is writing.
The team said the accomplishments of the trip are coupled with intentions to help in the region again. Dr. Jett said he hopes OBU's relationship with the Baptist hospital of Tezpur will continue. He envisions OBU nursing faculty working alongside the Tezpur hospital's nursing faculty for years to come, in both teaching and learning capacities.
"The hospital administration has expressed its desire for assistance; indeed, it is the only way in which they are able to stay in operation," said Dr. Jett, noting while the hospital has a constant need for assistance, students also benefit from serving in Tezpur.
"This hospital has enormous potential as a site to which members of the OBU community could travel to render service," explained Dr. Jett. "In the two weeks I was there, I believe our OBU students witnessed and assisted in a greater number of diverse medical scenarios than they would have experienced in a six-month period of time in a local hospital in Oklahoma. … OBU nursing students would enjoy an enriching and eye-opening experience as they would be directly involved in administering care to those people who most desperately need it and cannot afford it."
Jennifer Jett, the daughter of Dr. Jett, proved one example of how OBU students benefit from serving with the hospital. Her participation on this trip was a combination of her career interests in medicine and her eagerness to serve God on a mission trip.
"The realization that I could use my desire to become a doctor as a ministry tool to reach out to people on all corners of the globe had completely shifted my focus," Jett said. "Every single day brought a new adventure, a new experience, a new discovery about myself and the Lord."
OBU students, faculty and administration have expressed appreciation for opportunities to participate on mission trips. They report the trips provide an opportunity to serve, to learn and to gain a new perspective. When a person stays in one town, state or even country, they may find it hard to imagine what any other life would be.
Students on this India medical trip gained experience in a future career field, faced challenges of working in a foreign environment and witnessed firsthand life from a new perspective - a perspective that is priceless.