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Medical service trips lead to new insight

Ryan Albers ’09, at left, poses with other medical personnel while on a medical service trip to Honduras.

Ryan Albers ’09 has served on three medical service trips, including two as a student pharmacist, but what he learned is as valuable as the care given to the patients who live in desperate poverty. While he did gain experience in clinical care, the most long-lasting lesson was an epiphany into the meaning of being poor in spirit as expressed in the Beatitudes (Mt. 5:1-12).

In Honduras, Kenya, and Ecuador, he witnessed people living in homes that would be deemed unlivable in the United States. Yet despite their poverty, the people expressed “some of the greatest happiness, gratitude, familial bonds, and hope in people without the everyday conveniences I take for granted,” he said.

“Through most of my encounters, I have found the family unit intact, relational solidarity, children joyfully enjoying nature and each other, a contentment in what they have rather than frustration in what they lack, and a gratitude so profound for what we have shared with them that they call us family rather than friends,” he wrote in a blog post on Maximize Today (authored by Hunter Harritt ’09) regarding his one-week trip to Ecuador in March 2017. “What a wonderful contrast to what I have often known and experienced.”

With each medical service trip beginning with a week-long trip to Honduras in 2012, Albers said his “eyes opened to what poverty truly looks like, what life is like outside of the privileged bubble in which I grew up, and how happiness and contentment is in no way dependent upon material possessions or financial security.” And with each trip, he grew more uncomfortable with the trappings considered important in modern society.

Instead of focusing on accumulating material goods as he begins his career as a clinical pharmacy specialist with the VA Northern Indiana Health Care System in Mishawaka, he tries to follow the example of the people he served in those countries.

“Although I am sure my understanding and grasp (of being poor in spirit) will continue to mature, to me it has grown to be a state of dependency on God in all matters as if a beggar in need of everything that He has and desires to offer us rather than trusting in the wealth we have accumulated or the many other forms of security with which we surround ourselves,” Albers said. “I hope to detach myself from a desire to hold onto what my pride tells me I am entitled to use for my own advancement and instead clothe myself in the conviction of a steward using what God has entrusted to me in the service of others and the advancement of His purpose.”

Albers graduated from the Purdue College of Pharmacy in 2015, having spent one of his clinical rotations in Eldoret, Kenya, at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital. He went on to pursue post-graduate training in order to specialize in ambulatory care, otherwise known as outpatient disease state management. His first year of residency was at the VA Medical Center in Fayetteville, N.C., and his second at VA Medical Center in Lexington, Ky. Now as a clinical pharmacy specialist, he is essentially a mid-level practitioner with prescriptive authority and manages patients on blood thinners and others referred to him who require intensive medical management.

He said he enjoys his new home in northern Indiana but does hope to someday return to live and work in the Southern Indiana area. He also is looking for a future service opportunity that combines medical care and Christian mission work.

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