Medical Service TRIP Reflects MB Humanity in the Dominican Republic

Moses Brown upper school students traveled to the Dominican Republic over spring break in March, carrying on a tradition of supporting El Buen Samaritano Hospital’s provision of free medical care to residents of bateys, settlements near sugar mills. This unique opportunity allows Moses Brown School students to assist U.S., Haitian, and Dominican doctors, translators, and other volunteers involved with the hospital. 

Faculty member and Moses Brown alum Dominique Avila ’11, who participated in the DR Service TRIP in 2010 and 2011 when she was a student, was this year’s trip leader. She was thrilled to do so, since her experience had such a profound impact on her.

“My own TRIPs were my most significant experiences I had at Moses Brown as a student,” shares Dominique.

Students on the 2023 DR Service TRIP blogged to share some of their own experiences. Ian C. ’24 and Mohan D. ’24 reported on their first day in a batey. The MB group assisted the doctors in many ways: weighing patients and taking their blood pressures; working as scribes for the doctors’ diagnoses; packaging medications in the pharmacy; and providing shoes and glasses for those who needed them. 

“As [the day] came to a halt, we packed up our remaining medications and loaded them into the Big Red Bus,” said Ian and Mohan.  The doctors debriefed us on the interesting cases we saw with the patients throughout the day. They were very descriptive and were open to talking about any patient or question we had. They made this first experience truly memorable, informative, and fun.”

One of those doctors was the TRIP’s supervising physician and MB alum Molly Bliss ’86. Molly began volunteering as a healthcare worker at El Buen Samaritano Hospital in 1999, and while she was doing her emergency medicine residency at Rhode Island Hospital she led the effort to begin the Moses Brown School DR TRIP in 2004.  Molly, who was Moses Brown’s 2022 Commencement speaker, says creating the service trip is one of her proudest achievements.

This year was the first time the MB group has used the “Big Red Bus,” which is owned by the hospital. It was given in memory of Molly’s brother, Jake Bliss ’93 who passed away in the fall of 2012 from complications related to ALS. Jake was a natural leader who felt a strong sense of responsibility toward his peers and his community. He joined sister Molly to volunteer in the DR several times, both before medical school and later as a practicing orthopedist.

MB’s Dominican Republic Medical Service TRIP ran 14 consecutive years until interrupted by the pandemic, and it resumed this year. Close to 200 Moses Brown School students have participated in the program since its inception, helping the local sugar cane workers and their families who have no access to modern healthcare.

Students Veronica M. 23 and Willa S. 26 blogged about the third day of the program, when the contingency treated over 100 patients in a new batey.

“We noticed that the people in this batey were much sicker and had more diverse medical issues compared to the first one, as it was much farther from any city,” reported Veronica and Willa. They described treating a man who had been in a motorcycle accident and connecting with mothers and children in the batey. 

“One highlight for both of us was connecting with the kids,” they wrote. “We realized that the language barrier completely melts away when you’re playing a game of tag or throwing around a ball.”

Ella R. ‘24 shared in the day-four blog post how her ability to understand Spanish was strengthened by listening to a translator communicating with a patient and the doctor. 

“I even got a compliment from the translator that my Spanish was very good and began to communicate with her,” said Ella. 

She and fellow blogger Jane B. ’26  talked about day four as being the most pivotal, eye-opening, and emotional day for them, describing their personal interactions with the batey’s children and their reflections upon return to their own accommodations.

“At the moment we arrived, we were surrounded by an ecstatic and smiling group of school kids. No matter the circumstances or harsh conditions [that] these kids chronically endure, they always have the time and effort to put a smile on their faces! From the moment we stepped off the bus, there grew a feeling of wanting to provide more, almost to the point that we felt as though what we are doing on this TRIP isn’t enough.”

Their thoughtful commentary is a testament to the deep reflection that is part of Moses Brown’s academic culture and the depth and breadth of students’ humanity rooted in their Quaker values. 

“Overall, today was a hard day because of some of the comparisons we had today. Being in the bateys and then an hour later being in a resort – tonight is going to be filled with a lot of self-reflection and time for gratitude.”

About TRIPs at Moses Brown School

At Moses Brown, we believe in bringing the world to our classrooms and our classrooms to the world. MB TRIPs – Travel, Research & Immersion Programs – makes journeying and discovery a pervasive learning paradigm throughout the school.


Dominique with a child patient

Organizing supplies!

Dominique (middle) and Jake (right) on their birthday in 2011.