Clarkson’s nationally recognized student chapter of Doctors Without Borders (DWB) provides a wealth of opportunities for students of all majors and concentrations. Students who join DWB can help both the community of Potsdam and surrounding areas, as well as travel abroad to volunteer in underserved countries.
Real Life Member Experience
My name is Matthew Kane ’20, and I’m the current vice-president of Doctors Without Borders at Clarkson. I am a biology major in the pre-physician assistant program, minoring in chemistry and medicine & healthcare. I’ve held different positions in the club since my first year: general body member, the out-of-country trip chair and, now, my current position as VP. As a freshman, I had the opportunity to travel to Quito, Ecuador, with the club to volunteer in clinics and at local schools in an underserved area outside of the city. I got to give vaccinations, do vitals and also embrace the culture through the customs and language.
Aside from this international experience, the club has given me the tools I need to grow as a pre-health student and has prepared me for graduate school. Our meetings increase medical literacy, teach valuable skills such as triaging and offers students certifications like in “Stop the Bleed” and CPR. These skills are extremely important to gain an advantage over other students looking to attend the same programs after college.
DWB also hosts fundraisers and different events to make their presence known on campus. We’ve sponsored blood drives on campus, held fundraisers supporting causes like breast cancer and also put on some more fun events such as “Dead Week Donuts.” This club’s overall mission is to ensure that pre-health students at Clarkson have the opportunities they need in their undergraduate career to give them successful futures in the healthcare field.
Our Trip to Vietnam, 2019
As out-of-country trip chair, I was responsible for choosing the location of the trip and organizing through International Volunteer HQ all aspects of the trip for the entire group. Previous trips consisted of traveling to Latin and South America, so I wanted to change it up. Vietnam presented a great opportunity for the club to expand our cultural and medical knowledge in a completely different place.
Thirteen members and an advisor traveled to Vietnam to shadow physicians in Thống Nhất Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. Ages of these members spanned from Clarkson School students (high school-aged) all the way to seniors who had just recently graduated. We were split into different departments based on what interested us the most. Departments included fields such as gastrointestinal surgery, trauma, the emergency room, physical therapy, alternative medicine and more.
I was placed in the Gastrointestinal Surgery Department. I got to do rounds with an English-speaking physician who allowed me to take part in mild assessments of the abdomen. I also was given the opportunity to shadow multiple surgeons as they worked on the gastrointestinal tract, as well as surgeons from other departments, such as urology and cardiothoracic. Aside from observing different procedures and daily parts of the physicians’ work day, we got to learn about different parts of their lives in Vietnam.
In addition to the medical volunteering on the trip, we also got to embrace the culture by traveling to different parts of the city and to a Vietnamese island in the Gulf of Thailand! These experiences tied the entire trip together to help us gain both an understanding of Vietnamese medical practice and culture.
Why I’m happy I chose Doctors Without Borders
Students like the ones that have formed, sustained and currently are members of Doctors Without Borders are the type of students that I want — and every pre-health student should want — to be surrounded by. This chapter has provided me everything that I need to put myself in the best possible position when I leave my undergraduate career.