Dayton Doctor Gives Back But Ends Up Receiving More

Trip to Nicaragua reinforces American privileges often taken for granted

DAYTON, Ohio (July 2, 2013) – Thomas Dixon, MD, joined a medical mission team to Nicaragua this spring because he wanted to give back, but he ended up as the recipient instead as he freely accepted the life lessons lived out by those he served.

Dr. Dixon, a Premier HealthNet physician who practices family medicine at South Dayton Family Physicians, traveled to the Central American country with a team from his local church. He was one of three physicians who flew into Rancho Grande on May 4 with a heart ready to serve the underprivileged. An initial six-hour bus drive over unpaved roads led them to their main staging point. There they set up daily clinics where Dr. Dixon examined up to 90 patients within a 12-hour day. Often his only break was a bite of food between patients.

Still, Dr. Dixon would be the first to admit that his long days were nothing compared to the sacrifice the local people made to be seen by a doctor.

“It is amazing to see that these people have nothing,” he said. “Most of them have eight people living in a house that is the size of two of our exam rooms back in the states. They walked eight hours in 90-degree heat to get a bladder infection treated or to get Motrin pills for back pain.”

Most everyone in Nicaragua has health care since it is a socialist country. However, access to care and its level of quality varies according to where one lives. Dr. Dixon’s team from Church of the Cross in Kettering did most of their work in the mountainous region where there tends to be a lack of adequate health care.

“Many of the individuals who live in those areas don’t have the means to travel to points where there is better health care offered,” Dr. Dixon said.

Dr. Dixon and his team treated typical primary care issues such as headaches, back aches, high blood pressure, diabetes and transient ischemic attacks (TIA), a condition in which a loss of blood flow to the brain can cause stroke-like symptoms. Those who were treated were very appreciative and never complained about the extremely long wait times.

“It was rewarding in that respect and makes you take stock of everything that we have here in the United States and everything that we take for granted,” Dr. Dixon said. “It was also enjoyable being able to spend time talking with the patients,” he recalls. “I had to use an interpreter, but by the end I got to a point where I didn’t have to use them the whole time.”

Communication didn’t happen just through words. Dr. Dixon loved the opportunity to interact with the kids and often played with them and made them balloons. The generosity and selfless love of the children there left a huge impression on Dr. Dixon. There was one particular moment where they were handing out candy to the kids and a girl chose to slip some of the pieces given to her into the pocket of another.

“She probably never had candy in her life and yet here she was giving it away,” Dr. Dixon said. “In that respect it was one of those things that was just amazing.”

Dr. Dixon hopes to return to the mission field in the near future. The trip to Nicaragua was the first one he has done since he began practicing medicine 13 years ago, however, mission work was a big part of his life growing up. In high school, he participated in several mission trips within the United States through Habitat For Humanity. Next time he hopes to make it a family affair and take his wife and children with him.


Contact Us

Discover more about Premier Health and join us in building healthier communities in Southwest Ohio. Learn more about working at Premier Health, becoming a volunteer, and making a gift to support our mission.