By Kate Hunger
Three hundred mothers and their newborns in Nigeria will experience safer births using the clean birth kits physician assistant studies students created in December.
The Class of 2021 partnered with the nonprofit Global Health Charities to reduce infant and maternal mortality internationally. The effort was spearheaded by Evan Bridges and McKenzie Humphrey, global service coordinator and service coordinator for the Class of 2021, respectively.
“I want our class to have an impact that reaches further than San Antonio and the United States,” Bridges said, adding that before beginning the project, “I didn’t realize how much of an impact just having something clean to cut the umbilical cord was.”
Students raised $1,200 selling Valentine cake pops in February 2020 and used the money to buy supplies for the kits. Although the pandemic put their plans on hold for a while, about 30 students from the Classes of 2021 and 2022 assembled 300 kits on Dec. 5, taking turns during three socially distanced shifts.
Bridges’ father, Earl Bridges, is on the board of Global Health Charities and attended and helped run the assembly event.
Each kit contains a plastic sheet to ensure a clean birthing surface, a bar of soap, two pairs of gloves, four squares of gauze, antiseptic wipes, a clean razor with a cardboard cover that can be used to cut the umbilical cord, a clamp, a baby hat, a receiving blanket, and instructions. The kits have been shown to dramatically reduce infant and maternal mortality, Bridges said.
“The kits prevent sepsis and save not only the baby but also the mother delivering the child,” Humphrey said. “We would absolutely love to be there and help deliver a baby and provide everything we can in person, but that is not always available for rural communities. Even if a health care provider can’t be there, it’s like we are still thinking about them and still providing everything they need.”
Humphrey said she has seen a rise in student interest in community service since the pandemic began.
“I definitely see the eagerness to serve has increased,” she said. “Everyone is suffering during this time and everyone is in need.”
Students in other School of Health Professions programs have found ways to serve the community, as well. Taking walks through parks strewn with litter inspired second-year respiratory care student Marie Matthews to take action. She started a nonprofit and organized group of classmates and members of the public to pick up trash at area parks, events that typically yield eight or more bags of trash.
“My motivation was really seeing everybody come together and really try to tackle a problem that not many people think of,” she said.
First-year occupational therapy students volunteered to set up the Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas holiday store that lets children shop for and wrap gifts, collected toys for Any Baby Can, harvested carrots at the San Antonio Food Bank’s urban farm, and pledged to regularly clean up a 1.2-mile stretch of road the class adopted, said occupational therapy student Crystal Salinas.