UPIKE students experience summer of service

Whether they were providing eyeglasses in Mexico, helping with repairs for a church in Guatemala or volunteering with Remote Area Medical in Hazard, Ky., University of Pikeville students of all types spent their summer striving to serve. 

A team of nine students and two faculty members from the UPIKE-Kentucky College of Optometry (KYCO) traveled nearly 2,000 miles to Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. The group spent the week providing free eye care to many underserved patients. 

KYCO student Nitya Murthy volunteered at a OneSight clinic in Mexico before embarking on her fourth-year externship. The group was able to help 3,624 patients in five days. 

“The people of Mexico were welcoming and grateful, and it was an absolutely amazing experience,” said Murthy. “We saw rare pathologies and helped people who had never had glasses get back their quality of life.”

The UPIKE-Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine (KYCOM) also traveled thousands of miles to the Dominican Republic where they provided healthcare to more than 1,000 patients. In addition to medical care, each patient received a bag with children’s toys, toothbrushes, soap and other items that were donated by KYCOM, KYCO and community members. 

Shauna Combs, a medical student who served on the trip, said it’s service opportunities like this that affirmed her decision to pursue her medical degree at KYCOM.  

“This experience was an amazing culmination of my first year of medical school,” said Combs. “One of the reasons I chose to pursue osteopathic medicine and to train at KYCOM is their focus on the whole person and the ideal of always putting the humanity of the patient first. This mission trip embodied those principles to the fullest extent. I learned so much about medicine, culture, my fellow classmates and myself.” 

UPIKE’s undergraduate students and faculty made the journey to Guatemala City, Guatemala where they assisted a church build a new roof, hosted a successful Bible school program and delivered food to homes throughout the community. For sophomore Abby Keeton, the experience left her with a heart of gratitude and memories that will last forever. 

“What an amazing week to look back on,” said Keeton. “I could never put into words exactly how touching this experience was for me. I’ll forever remember my first mission trip and all the wonderful memories we made while serving the Lord.” 

UPIKE’s first-year students began their semester with a similar focus during their annual service day. Student groups led by volunteers served at more than 20 sites in three states.

With an abundance of service opportunities to participate in, students at UPIKE served in their communities and abroad in more ways than listed. With a mission and vision centered on giving, the university strives to enrich the lives of its students so they graduate prepared to succeed with a heart eager to serve. 

For more information about summer service projects and mission trip opportunities at UPIKE, contact Chaplain Rob Musick by emailing RobertMusick@upike.eduor calling (606) 218-5762.