Elkins student to serve in Guatemala

ELKINS – An Elkins native will spend a month in Guatemala in hopes of enriching her medical knowledge as she serves a rural population of indigenous people.

Jessica Johnson, who graduated from Elkins High School, said she hopes to help bring care to the Mayan Indians.

Johnson said the trip is sponsored by the West Virginia University School of Medicine, and she will be accompanied by several classmates and WVU physicians.

“We are partnering with the mission in San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala, a nonprofit organization that provides medical care to adults and children along with health information for families in underserved areas of Guatemala,” she said.

Johnson said the group will hold clinics for people in different outlying Mayan villages, seeing the ill and dispensing medications as needed.

“We are leaving on Super Bowl Sunday to travel to San Lucas,” Johnson said. “We will perform normal check-ups for people of any age. We try to give the residents vitamins and supplements for their day-to-day health, and we will try to treat them for any kind of medical illness they have such as infection or skin problems.”

Johnson said they offer education for diabetes and high blood pressure.

“This is my second medical trip,” Johnson said. “I went on a medical mission to Belize a few years ago.”

Johnson said when she started Shepherd College, she was part of the MedSTEP program.

“That means when I was accepted into my undergraduate studies, I was also accepted into medical school,” Johnson said. “I am very excited to go on this trip. This is the last couple of months of my fourth year. Dr. Boyd has been awesome. She has helped me write letters to get supplies and donations for this trip.”

Johnson said she is grateful for the supplies donated by Health Center Pharmacy.

While in high school, Johnson shadowed Dr. Mary Boyd.

“That is when I started being interested in pediatrics,” she said. “I have been with Dr. Boyd on a rotation for a month. I plan to go into Med Peds, which is a dual certification in adult medicine and pediatrics. I hope to stay at WVU to practice once I graduate.”

“Global and rural health are two areas of concentration I want to focus on once I go into practice,” Johnson added. “These are my advocate areas.”

Johnson said her parents, Don and Sue Ellen Johnson, have been very supportive during her journey through high school and college.

“While in high school, I always wanted to be a doctor,” she said. “The teachers helped me find avenues and figure out how to fulfill my dreams and go about getting into school. I always appreciated the help given to me by my science teachers and classes.”