Nursing and Health Science Students Take on Mission to Improve Texas Colonias Healthcare

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – For the second year in a row, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi nursing and health science students took time out of their summer to help the disadvantaged. From June 12-29, Islander students traveled to Weslaco, Texas, to take part in the Colonias Program, an Army initiative to provide health care to those living in Colonias – rural communities that lack one or more major infrastructures such as potable water, sewage systems, and electricity.

Colonias residents were greeted with helpful Islander students and Army personnel who provided them with health checks, dental care and eye exams – all free of charge. Students were stationed in one of two local schools – allowing them the opportunity to see large numbers of patients. Resources included a dental van complete with a panoramic x-ray and three examination rooms. Even more so than previous missions, this year emphasized dental care.

“We’re finding that poor dental health can lead to heart disease and other chronic health problems,” said Dr. Mary Jane Hamilton, professor of nursing in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences (CONHS). “Dental health is part of the overall picture and our students were incredibly lucky to learn more about these correlations while working with Army dentists.”

Hundreds of Colonias residents lined up outside as early as 1 a.m. to receive care. Students had the opportunity to work with patients one-on-one to teach them more about dental hygiene, provide free toothbrushes, and share good brushing habits with parents, which they could then pass on to their children.

“It was an absolute pleasure to participate in the Colonias mission this summer,” said Juan Marines, a health science major. “It was humbling to see how hard other people have it and how much they endure. Helping these people, along with receiving the gratitude they expressed, was the highlight of my time here at the University.”

The Colonias Program is a dual-partnership between Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Texas A&M University’s Health Science Center and College of Architecture, and the United States Department of Defense. In 2020, the program is projected to help underserved populations in Nueces County, and there is no doubt CONHS students and faculty will be ready to assist.

“Both years we’ve participated, our Islander students have volunteered for multiple weeks,” said Hamilton. “They have the determination and drive to do whatever they can to help others.”