Mutually Beneficial Mission


By Marcia Faye

For 12 Illinois Tech students, a plastic soft drink bottle, child’s toothbrush, and ibuprofen tablets rose far above the level of common, everyday items during the group’s week in Managua, Nicaragua, this past summer. Along with faculty advisor Kathryn Spink, director of Pre-Health Professions Programs, the group participated in a weeklong medical mission with the international humanitarian organization Medicine, Education, and Development for Low-Income Families Everywhere, or MEDLIFE. On their first day in Central America, the members of the Illinois Tech team joined a “reality tour,” where they observed Managua residents picking through a landfill for coveted plastic bottles for resale. The students also assisted in children’s tooth-brushing clinics and worked in the MEDLIFE pharmacy, among other activities.

For some students, this was their first MEDLIFE experience; for others, a repeat mission trip. Watch an IIT Magazine MEDLIFE 2017 Video Extra featuring Nour Issa (BIOL 3rd year), Ilma Lodhi (BME 4th year), and Spink at

“The brigade left me with newfound knowledge of the health care system in different countries and the Nicaraguan culture and its people. It will be an experience and memory I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
—Shailee Shah (BME 4th year)
“The brigade is a sign of IIT’s dedication to educating conscientious, critical-thinking individuals.”
—Ilma Lodhi (BME 4th year)
“Going to other parts of the world to get a glimpse of what the health care system is like in other countries has helped me confirm my desire to pursue medicine.”
—Evelyn Thomas (BCHM ’17)
“Going on the MEDLIFE brigade brought light to the ways the medical device industry can innovate devices to make patient diagnosis more affordable and convenient.”
—Nirja Shah (BME ’17)
“My initial thought of being a participant on a medical brigade was that I am going abroad to help people in need, but the reality of the situation was much more. Having the opportunity to attend the brigade was life changing, as I was able to work and aid people of a different culture and language.”
—Mohannad Safadi (BIOL ’17)
“Ibuprofen, for example, can be found in the United States at almost every corner store. From Walgreens to gas stations, this white, plastic bottle sits innocuously on the shelves for around $3. Little do we think and realize that this bottle is a superhero in many third-world countries.”
—Diana Wu (CHE 3rd year)
"My MEDLIFE trip opened my eyes to the differences in lifestyles of people living in the city and people living in separated communities.…The people who live in a separate community have to walk for over an hour on a difficult, rough mountain trail in order to reach the city; therefore, many have difficulty getting a prescription when they are sick.”
—Abdallah Hasan (CHEM 2nd year)