Growth through Giving Back

September 15, 2022

Gustavo Herrera Garcia grew professionally and personally through a mission trip to Mexico

UIW Physical Therapy member works on a patient“Being at the clinics, working hard every single day, feeling the adrenaline in my body, that was extremely awesome.”

That is how Gustavo Herrera Garcia, a UIW Nutrition major, recalls the mission trip he and 41 other faculty, staff and students took to Oaxaca, Mexico, from Sept. 3-11. The group, made up of community members from the Ila Faye Miller School of Nursing and Health Professions, the Feik School of Pharmacy, the Ettling Center for Civic Leadership and Sustainability, the Rosenberg School of Optometry (RSO), the School of Physical Therapy (SoPT), Community Health and Nutrition, traveled to Oaxaca to provide medical services to the city’s residents. They were joined by Sr. Adriana Calzada, CCVI, who represented the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word on the trip. This was the first mission trip UIW has been able to take to Oaxaca since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To see all the professional schools come together with one common goal, and achieve it is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Bobby San Martin, program specialist in the Ettling Center and trip leader. “Many students have not traveled outside the United States or even Texas. I have been fortunate to have visited 21 different countries, and I always try to provide guidance or assistance for those students with questions or who are feeling nervous.”

UIW partnered with Los Quijotes of San Antonio, a local non-profit with more than 30 years of experience organizing these mission trips. The organization is comprised of voluntary medical personnel who provide free medical services to the underserved, impoverished communities of Oaxaca, Mexico, and the surrounding region.

During the eight-day trip in early September, the group provided free medical assistance across the specialty areas of pediatrics, family medicine, physical therapy, dentistry, women’s health and optometry, including eye exams and cataract surgeries. Volunteers also aided with prescription medications and delivered presentations about how to prevent the development of diabetes complications and strategies to prevent adverse outcomes.

San Martin, whose father was the previous Los Quijotes president, has worked with the organization for years, but he did not travel to Mexico with the group until he joined the staff at UIW. Now, he truly UIW member gives a shot understands his father’s stories about the impact the trip has on people.

“I remember my father saying that the students will be seeing things in clinic settings that they will not see in rotations,” commented San Martin. “Listening to the students during and after each mission trip, they all have one common theme. The mission trip has opened their eyes to a greater need.”

“It was so fulfilling, and it changes the way you see things in life,” noted Herrera Garcia. “It makes you more humble, and makes you value the simplest things even more.”

“The trip made me appreciate the life, resources, and opportunities that I have,” added Jorge Luis Quintero, an alumnus on the trip. “The act of gratitude was the biggest thing I experienced.”

Herrera Garcia and the other nutritionists also provided one-on-one diabetes education and counseling for more than 100 patients. These professional experiences, he says, will be very useful for his future career. But for him, the trip was about more than practicing his craft.

“I’ve always believed you should give something back,” Herrera Garcia reflected. “Giving something back is one of the best things in life you can do. Contribute with your work and make other people’s lives better. This was an opportunity to put that into practice.”