Global medical brigade travels world, serves communities

Photo courtesy of Haley Kuhns

Jessa Reid Bolling

The University of Alabama chapter of Global Medical Brigade takes students across the world to work with licensed medical professionals and community workers to provide health services in rural communities with limited access to healthcare.

Global Medical Brigade (GMB) is a nonprofit organization that works with multiple universities in the United States to take volunteers to Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua and Ghana. There they have the opportunity to shadow licensed doctors, take vitals and patient history in triage and assist in a pharmacy under the guidance of licensed pharmacists. 

According to their website, GMB clinics have treated over 1.1 million patients, offering services such as dental care, pap-smears, consultations and other specialized screenings.

Haley Kuhns, junior biology major and co-president of the University chapter of GMB, said that she first learned of the organization through a friend and decided to learn more about what it had to offer. She then went on her first GMB service trip last year. Kuhns said the trip was incredible. 

“I actually didn’t know much about it, but I was looking for this kind of opportunity, so I just thought ‘You know what? I’m gonna go for it,’” Kuhns said. “It sounds kind of cliche coming from a service trip, but just the fact that people were so incredibly appreciative of our help, even though we aren’t necessarily physicians yet. It was pretty changing and that’s what made me want to get more involved in this organization.”

Global Brigade, the larger organization that houses GMB, also offers public health, water, human rights, dental, engineering and business brigades for volunteers who want to work toward the health and economic development of communities. 

“Global Brigades go into a community that needs serious help, and the hope is that by maybe around six months, they’re able to be sustainable on their own,” Kuhns said. “There’s a lot of other service organizations that go into communities and they just kind of provide a temporary fix for these people. So Global Brigade really works hard to get these different sectors in there and educate them and set the stage so they can succeed and not just have the same turnover. I think that’s something that distinguishes Global Brigade from other organizations. It’s more sustainable and more long-term than just a temporary fix.”

Kuhns said those interested in the medical field can gain valuable experience through GMB, not just for a resume, but to discover if practicing medicine is truly their passion.

“It’s about a love for human beings and wanting to help people and doing whatever it takes to help them,” Kuhns said. “It really does solidify if you want to go into the medical field because this is kind of some of the dirty work and getting the hands-on experience that you can’t get just staying at home.”

Courtney Walker, junior psychology major and also co-president of the UA chapter of Global Medical Brigade, said GMB provides valuable experience in the various brigades that are offered through the organization. 

“What’s so cool about Global Brigades and going to these countries is that we get to do a lot of things that we would never get to do here,” Walker said. “We have a gynecology station, a dental station, a pharmacy station, a triage and consulting station. So day to day, all of the members of the brigade rotate through the stations just so they can see a little bit of everything.”

Walker said her experience with GMB has made her more appreciative of the readily available health services in the United States, recalling a patient that had to walk for three hours to get to the GMB clinics.

“It just opens your eyes to how good we have it here. We can just run to Rite Aid and get medicine but we had to get the people there a prescription for things like ibuprofen because they don’t have access to it,” Walker said. “It’s crazy just to think about what they don’t have that we take for granted every day.”

The University chapter of GMB has an upcoming trip May 13 through 19 to Honduras. Students interested in learning more about the organization can find more information on their website or email any questions to