One of the things you don't think about, regarding outreach medicine, until you're in it: there's a lot of mindless scut work. Once the DASV/SOMOS team arrives in Santo Domingo, the most pressing task is to unpack, count, and package the thousands of pills that we bring with us. This year the meds from the US only included vitamins (adult and child) and antihistamines. Everything else had been ordered in-country in blister packs, tubes, or ready-to-reconsistute bottles. For hours, the main sounds in DASV HQ are the scratch of pill-counting spatulas, the clicking of pills against each other as they rush from the chute, the rustle of filled ziplocks piling up and being stashed in bigger plastic bags. The hush is occasionally broken by a burst of hilarity or editorial comments on the flavor and texture of pediatric vitamins. The pace builds as everyone gets into the grove, then slows as boredom sets in, then builds again as we open the final bottles; will we finish on time to celebrate the new year?
(Compared to last year's HQ - a normal room crammed full with a queen-sized bed, a cot, and three students' duffels - this year's room was posh. Dr. Mark's single turned out to be a bridal suite, with two love seats, a coffee table, and all the floor space we could wish for. This also meant that Mark's sweet bed-in-an-alcove remained relatively unmolested by sweaty, dirty crewmates perching on it during meetings.)
Mark is often heard to remark on how everybody helps out on these trips. Past president of William and Mary Gene Nichol even found himself wearing scrubs and working in the pharmacy on previous years' trips. I've never heard anybody balk or complain. There is no "your job" and "my job." There is just the work in front of us, and many hands available to do it.
The work done, it's time to head to the Plaza for rum and coke, purchased from a colmado along the way. Tomorrow morning will come soon, along with more work. We will face it together.