March 27, 2015
NEWBURGH, NY -
Jessica Martinez of Monroe, N.Y. (left) and Kelly Baker of
LaGrangeville, N.Y., Mount Saint Mary College seniors, feed a
disabled child in an impoverished shanty town in the Dominican
Instead of going on vacation this spring break, more than a
dozen seniors in the Mount Saint Mary College nursing program –
armed with thousands of health supplies – made a humanitarian
journey to the Dominican Republic.
The students, joined by Mount faculty members Dianne Murphy, Ann
Corcoran, and Linda Ruta, headed to impoverished areas known as
bateyes to assess residents’ health and provide care to individuals
and families. They were nearly 1,700 miles away from New York.
According to Murphy, the group handed out some 800 “health
packs,” which contained soap, toothpaste, a toothbrush, a
washcloth, over the counter pain relievers, and more. Mount
faculty, students and staff, their families, and members of the
greater Newburgh, N.Y. community donated the supplies, including
thousands of vitamins, all of which had to stay in their original
packaging until the students arrived in the Dominican Republic.
Then, the vitamins were divided up into packs of about 30 and
The students, Corcoran explained, “put a phenomenal amount of
work in the trip, including obtaining donations to bring to the
bateyes, preparing medications for distribution, and seeing
Corcoran notes that they also visited Hospital Regional in San
Pedro de Macoris and were given a tour of the facility.
(RIght) Benjamin Hayes of Fishkill, N.Y., a Mount nursing
major, aids a disabled boy at Casa de Luz, a home for children with
Finally, the Mount team visited Casa de Luz, which translates to
“House of Light,” a home for children with special needs. They
provided children’s vitamins, baby wipes, ointment to relieve
diaper rash, infant and children’s pain relievers, washcloths,
shampoo, and baby powder.
During their five-day stay, the seniors and their Mount mentors
aided more than 2,000 people.
In the bayetes, “there’s very little access to healthcare,”
explained Mount nursing student Brianna Perazella of Cheshire,
Conn. “And because of that, small health problems get worse and
Perazella added that the Mount group encountered ailments such
as ear-, tooth- and headaches, high blood pressure, infections, and
– thanks to unclean water supplies – dehydration.
(Left) Mount nursing students, including Alyssa Bavuso of
Cortlandt Manor, N.Y. (left) and Irene Santiago of Hopewell
Junction, N.Y. (right), worked in Dominican Republic clinics where
rooms were separated not with walls, but sheets.
Irene Santiago of Hopewell Junction, N.Y., who works as a
patient care technician at Mid Hudson Regional Hospital, said the
experience strengthened the students’ skills, including patient
assessment, prioritization, and becoming a more autonomous
Their clinical work in hospitals throughout the tri-state area
helped prepare the seniors, explained Mackenzie Rohde of Freeport,
N.Y. However, in the bateyes, the tools students are used to having
in the US are in short supply.
“When we were assessing patients, there was a lot of creative
thinking,” said Rohde. “You’re playing detective. We talk about
critical thinking skills in class, but this gave us a great
opportunity to use those skills in the field.”
Rohde pointed out that part of treating patients was to educate
“Oral hygiene, washing your hands, cleaning cuts – I even had
two women who didn’t know what menstrual cramps are,” she
explained. “Just knowing simple ways to protect yourself and what’s
happening to your body can lower anxiety and increase healthy
Santiago noted that “with medication comes education. We taught
our patients how to use the medication we gave them so it would be
While most other students only speak English and communicated
through translators, Santiago is fluent in Spanish, and easily
conversed with many patients. Often, other students would ask
Santiago for a helping hand.
“I can see how speaking Spanish can help nurses here in America
and in the Dominican Republic too,” she explained.
When asked if they would go on another humanitarian trip, all
the students replied enthusiastically: Yes.
“In a heartbeat,” said Perazella.
In addition to Mount faculty and Rohde, Santiago, and Perazella,
the sojourner servants in the group were: master’s candidates
Kristina Thompson of West Point, N.Y.; Theresa Halloran of Stone
Ridge, N.Y.; Kaye Saludares of Newburgh, N.Y.; Christian Plaza of
Newburgh, N.Y.; Ron Vales of Trumbell, Conn.; and Diane Volk of
Hopewell Junction, N.Y.; accelerated students Jacquelyn Augusto of
Wallkill, N.Y.; Amy Locitzer of Cold Spring, N.Y.; Jessica Torres
of Washingtonville, N.Y.; Benjamin Hayes of Fishkill, N.Y.; and
Jennifer Goldstein of Wallkill, N.Y.; and traditional undergrad
seniors Kelly Baker of LaGrangeville, N.Y.; Sarah Muller of
Wappingers Falls, N.Y.; Jessica Martinez of Monroe, N.Y.; Danielle
Piperato of Thiells, N.Y.; Maggie Mowbray of LaGrangeville, N.Y.;
Sonya Mattera of Monroe, N.Y.; Alyssa Bavuso of Cortlandt Manor,
N.Y.; and Caprice Cervone of Wallkill, N.Y. Also participating was
Murphy’s daughter, Kristie, who is a registered nurse and an alumna
of the Mount’s undergraduate nursing program.
The journey marks the Mount’s fourth group trip to the region.
Last academic year, more than a dozen Mount students participated
in a similar humanitarian venture.
At Mount Saint Mary College, more than 45 percent of first year
students aim for health professions. The Mount offers the only
nationally accredited four-year nursing degree program in the mid
Hudson Valley and boasts a high NCLEX-RN passage rate that
consistently exceeds the state average.