Cindy Rowe, president of Cindy Rowe Auto Glass in Harrisburg, Pa., ventured to the Dominican Republic for five days in March to evaluate the conditions in hospitals and medical clinics in the Samana peninsula, an isolated and beautiful area on the country's northeast coast. As a registered nurse who left behind her full-time career in medicine to start her multi-million dollar auto repair company, she has extensive experience with volunteering in the underprivileged parts of Baltimore and in inner-city soup kitchens. But nothing really prepared her for the conditions in the third-world, she said.
Rowe traveled to the Dominican Republic with a group of medical professionals from Harrisburg, Penn., organized through the city's Rotary Club. One of the biggest shocks, she said, was the lack of basic -- let alone sterile --hygiene in some of the facilities the group visited.
"We visited one of the largest medical facilities on the peninsula, and there was a lack of sinks, hand towels, and soap," she said. "Often the electricity would cycle in and out. While I was correct in assuming that we would be evaluating their medical knowledge and facilities, often basic infrastructure - electricity, stable buildings, soap and water - is lacking. We need to help them strengthen their foundation before we work with them to increase their medical care and knowledge of techniques."
Government health officials told the group the largest cause of infant and child deaths was the diarrhea and dehydration due to the lack of clean drinking water in a couple of the very rural areas. Basic necessities, such as electricity, clean water and supplies like rubber gloves are often lacking in medical facilities, especially rural ones, they said.
After touring various medical and supervising the on-going construction of a dental clinic, Rowe and the group made plans for their future involvement with the area.
"We want to make sure the citizens and medical professionals are in charge of their own health care improvements," she said. "We want to set up improved facilities, and give them the information and knowledge to help themselves. In the long run, that's always more lasting than any quick fixes."
Two key projects the group wants to begin are water wells for the small, often-isolated villages in the peninsula's interior and providing anti-bacterial solutions to the region's hospitals and clinics. Additionally, the group began the process of adding a dental clinic to an existing medical clinic, built several years ago under the direction of a Pennsylvania ophthalmologist.
No reproduction, in print, electronic or any form without the expressed written permission of
Key Communications Inc. 540-720-5584.