Marlborough – Marlborough High School senior Matthew Zinck is looking forward to vacation this year, but not because he wants to sleep late or head to a warm beach.
Zinck will be part of a small team of doctors, medical students and high school students who will trek to the tiny African country of Malawi – wedged between Zambia and Mozambique – to help set up a medical clinic, administer care and teach good public health practices to the poverty-stricken people there.
This will be Zinck's second such trip. Last year, he joined a similar group, also led by Dr. Brian Lisse, to Nicaragua. To go there, he had to take two tests – one in Spanish – as part of a competitive field of students who wanted to go. He won the competition and, as a result, got to go on the trip without paying for it.
While in Nicaragua, Zinck and his team worked with community leaders in a moderate-size village, learning what the issues were and working together to come up with solutions. While there, he bathed in a stream, helped the villagers make fertilizer, and acted as a triage person for the scores of people who would walk as much as three miles to see the doctors. The “patients” would then have to wait for hours because there were so many in line ahead of them.
Most of their medical issues were lifestyle-related, Zinck said. So, in addition to administering medical care, the group helped the Nicaraguans understand the importance of avoiding dehydration, for example.
“When I heard about the trip [to Nicaguara], it sounded so interesting,” Zinck told the members of the Marlborough Rotary Club.
“But it was more than that: It was life-changing. It affected what I wanted to do in the future. I want a career in medicine.”
According to Lisse, Zinck's experience is not unusual.
“If you take medical students to a place that's underserved, they are more likely to practice in an underserved area, within the United States or not,” he said.
This year's trip will be different, and not just geographically. This time Zinck needs to raise the money to go to Malawi; airfare to southern Africa is not cheap. Additionally, the area and the people will be new to these services – the group had been to Nicaragua several times. There will be language barriers as well.
For two weeks Zinck, Lisse and their colleagues will help set up emergency services, work at the local hospital, help develop mobile medical services, and work with a public health nurse. Additionally, there is an orphanage there that needs their help – an orphanage for children whose parents have died from HIV/AIDS.
To learn more about Zinck, his trip and his reasons for foregoing a relaxing break, contact Marlborough Public Schools communications liaison Beth Wagner at [email protected] or at 508-460-5808.