On June 13, Moira Pyhala, a senior studying political science at UAA, traveled with Mobile Medics International, an Anchorage-based non-governmental organization, to Cebu Island in the Philippines.
For three weeks, Pyhala served as photographer, clerk, medical assistant, clinic coordinator and pretty much any position that the nine-member team required.
“Moira [Pyhala] was such a value to the team,” Teresa Gray, founder of Mobile Medics International, said.
Gray said that when the team arrived in different rural villages, hundreds of people were waiting for them.
“Without even being able to speak the language, Moira [Pyhala] was able to set up the area where we were going to practice, help us get our equipment ready and direct people to where they needed to go,” Gray said.
This summer marked Gray’s fourth trip with Mobile Medics International to the Philippines but the first time the team brought an intern and non-medical volunteer.
Gray, a career flight medic, founded Mobile Medics International during the Syrian Refugee Crisis as a way to organize and mobilize medical professionals to areas of conflict and disaster.
“If UAA continues to give me interns… I’m taking an intern,” Gray said. “We learned from having her there [that] as a medical team, we want to have someone who’s non-medical in that role for every trip.”
While this was their fourth trip to the Philippines, the trip marked a new endeavor for Gray and her crew.
“This is the first community that we’re working on medical self-reliance with,” Gray said.
The team not only provided medical aid but also medical training to community members by conducting first-aid classes. The team partnered with a church group to establish a permanent clinic, fully stocked with medical supplies.
Both the clinic and training are parts of a long-term plan to staff the clinic to be self-sufficient. Gray plans to return to the clinic in October to teach a full EMT course.
The team was able to increase their outreach and the number of patients they saw on this trip. On previous trips, the team saw an average of about 500-600 people, but this year, they treated a total of 1,400 people in just 10 days.
“We’re really thankful to all our donors as we are entirely donor-funded,” Pyhala said.
Pyhala first connected with Gray through the UAA Model United Nations Program. Two years ago, Gray served as the keynote speaker for the conference and presented her work with the Syrian Refugee crisis, which ultimately led her to found the Mobile Medics International organization.
This spring, Gray reached out to Kimberly Pace, a political science professor at UAA who oversees the organization of the annual Model United Nations conference, inquiring about the possibility of an intern.
“I am so very pleased that Moira had the opportunity to be part of Mobile Medics International trip to the Philippines,” Pace said. “I will be thrilled to have her share her real-world experience with the students at UAA.”
The experience was one Pyhala would recommend to other students.
“It definitely strengthened my passion for nonprofit and NGO work… they definitely make a difference in areas where governments and business sectors fail to provide people with what they need to survive,” Pyhala said.
Mobile Medics International has worked crises such as Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas and Cyclone Gita in American Samoa. The organization also travels to Greece and the Philippines annually to provide aid.
Gray says that the team has no plans of slowing down and will likely be doing several disaster relief missions before January of 2019.
“It’s hurricane season, so we’re currently monitoring several hurricanes and we’re ready to go when people need us,” Gray said. “We’re staying busy.”
To learn more about the efforts of Gray and Mobile Medics International, you can visit their website at mobilemedicsinternational.org.