Ole Miss helps Oxford doctor Dennis Morgan and son prepare for medical mission trip

Published 11:03 am Thursday, September 29, 2016

By Pam Starling

University of Mississippi

Oxford oncologist Dr. Dennis Morgan and his son Joshua are preparing for a visit next year to Oaxaca, Mexico, where they will tend to medical needs of residents living in the poorest communities.

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Among the challenges they will face is the language barrier when speaking about medical issues with people in the villages they will visit.

Hoping to overcome this hurdle the Morgans enrolled in the University of Mississippi Communiversity program’s “Spanish for Health Care Professionals” class that began last week and will be offered in four evening sessions this fall.

“I spoke with a nurse practitioner who told me about the class, and it sounded like something that could be pretty useful,” Morgan said.

Morgan volunteered on a medical mission trip to Peru back in 2011. He wanted to give his son the same life-changing opportunity. After partnering with Ole Miss graduates Jeff and Liesa Holeman who are Baptist missionaries in Mexico, the city of Oaxaca became his next destination.

“We will go into people’s homes and ask if anyone needs to see a doctor,” Morgan said. “Once we are able to see a few people and establish trust, several more will come to us with their issues. Working to understand and communicate in the patients’ native language should go a long way to facilitate that trust.

“Most of these people live in huts with dirt floors and open fires. They truly do not have anything, but they are so kind to us. Once we can help address their physical issues, it opens the door for our mission team to come in and share the Gospel.”

Morgan has been practicing medicine in Oxford for 19 years, and Joshua is a junior at Oxford High School.

“I have two years of high school Spanish and three years of college Spanish classes,” Morgan said. “It has been 31 years, though, so I felt like I needed a refresher course. The good thing is the class is very interactive. I’m learning without really knowing that I’m learning.”

The Communiversity course offered this fall is taught by Mexico City native and UM Division of Outreach international counselor Ari Lugo.

“This is the first time we have offered a course like this, and it has attracted a wide range of people,” Lugo said. “There are doctors, nurses, records coordinators, a nurse practitioner and a respiratory therapist taking the class right now.

“The professionals who have enrolled in this course have one main thing in common. They truly want to help people to feel better.”

The Division of Outreach is in talks to offer the class again in the spring and build on what is being taught, Lugo said.

“This has been a great class that actually fits great into my schedule,” Morgan said. “I’m learning practical terminology for the health care setting that I can use with my Spanish-speaking patients in Oaxaca and also here in Oxford.

“I can now use different words to describe pain and symptoms. This will be a very useful resource for me in the future.”