Alumni Set Up Medical Clinic for Ukrainian Refugees in Tijuana



A infant with a brain tumor, a affected individual with acute appendicitis and 11 orphans at threat for human trafficking — these are a few of the Ukrainian refugee scenarios Dr. Eric Hargis ’08 and his crew have found in recent months at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Hargis has been serving as the professional medical director of a grassroots clinic in Tijuana, furnishing aid for hundreds of Ukrainian refugees escaping war in their homeland. The refugees are making an attempt to achieve their households in the U.S. through the southern border, where by it has been less difficult to obtain a visa.

Dr. Eric Hargis ’08 and Christina Hargis ’10

The Cal State Fullerton alumnus and his spouse, Christina Hargis ’10, equally gained bachelor’s degrees in wellbeing science prior to pursuing professions as a medical professional and physician assistant, respectively. The few initiated the clinic in Tijuana soon after finding out that Ukrainian refugees had been in require of professional medical care.

“At a single issue, the wait time for entry into the U.S. was up to 4 times,” mentioned Hargis. “We had been possessing a pretty critical professional medical crisis just about every day.

“A good deal of these individuals remaining Ukraine with no matter what they had in their pockets and whatsoever they had on their bodies. Some of them have long-term healthcare difficulties and have run out of medication whilst currently being on the operate for a month. Other people have gotten sick even though traveling, and dehydration is a huge dilemma,” he extra.

“We also have distinctive worries to feel about, like human trafficking, simply because we’re dealing with an incredibly at-chance inhabitants — 40{fc1509ea675b3874d16a3203a98b9a1bd8da61315181db431b4a7ea1394b614e} of whom are little ones.”

Constructing a Clinic From the Ground Up

When Hargis arrived in Tijuana in late March, he uncovered a pop-up tent with 1st-assist kits, a bottle of Tylenol and a couple of volunteer nurses. He instantly went to area pharmacies and began obtaining supplies.

The mayor of Tijuana donated a boxing health and fitness center to set up the clinic and Hargis stepped up to guide the work, responding to some 300 messages a day ranging from logistics questions to affected person emergencies.

In a issue of months, the clinic secured assessment tables, a large vary of more than-the-counter and prescription drugs, and other unexpected emergency healthcare supplies. The clinic has executed bodily exams, being pregnant checks, fetal heart checking, and the administration of acute and serious health problems. It has also operated as a 24-hour urgent care — staffed by additional than 130 rotating clinical volunteers.

Hargis and his staff created partnerships with the healthcare neighborhood in Mexico, U.S. Border Patrol, and this kind of humanitarian businesses as the Mexican Crimson Cross to present ambulatory solutions and expedite healthcare emergencies.

“If we weren’t there, Ukrainians would have been waiting for days on close for healthcare treatment,” stated Christina. “They previously have so considerably trauma from what they’ve professional in Ukraine.”

At the clinic’s peak, approximately 80 individuals were witnessed per working day. The clinic will soon shut down operations with the implementation of President Joe Biden’s new “Uniting for Ukraine” method, which aims to streamline the visa method for refugees getting into the United States.

Ukrianian Refugee Camp in Mexico
Ukrainian refugees come across shelter in a gym in Tijuana. Photograph courtesy of Eric Hargis.

“It’s persuasive,” mentioned Hargis. “You see mothers with their infants sleeping on the flooring in a health and fitness center and you see the appears to be like on people’s faces. You can tell that they have not been handled like human beings. Their dignity and their humanity have been stripped away.

“One of the really important parts of our mission has been to return that dignity and to address our patients with great care.”

Pursuing Careers in Overall health Care

In advance of becoming a double-boarded doctor in household and habit medicine, Hargis recollects scoring a 37 out of 100 on a Cal State Fullerton natural chemistry check and contemplating he was not going to be a health care provider. Panicked, he went to his professor who stated, “Thirty-7 is quite great!”

“That’s how steep the curve was,” defined Hargis. “I can convey to you now that I know a ton of physicians who went to a great deal of distinctive schools — and coming out of CSUF, I was as ready as any individual else.”

Top a hands-on laser exploration venture was 1 of the highlights of Hargis’ undergraduate encounter, when Christina remembers traveling to the U.S.-Mexico border 2 times with the Traveling Samaritans club to aid in volunteer-led medical clinics.

“Having exposure to a variety of activities while I was at Cal State Fullerton was the most practical for what I’m carrying out now with my job and as a clinical volunteer,” she shared.

The couple also credit rating Laura Chandler, assistant professor of community overall health, for encouraging their vocation aspirations.

“She was normally there if you desired aid or a cheerleader,” explained Hargis. “She created you come to feel like all things have been achievable.”

Providing Again to a Personalized Induce

“I really don’t imagine any human being with a soul can glance at the visuals we’re observing come out of Ukraine and come away unaffected,” reported Hargis.

“The Point out Department’s final decision this week to change the visa procedure took us all by surprise,” reported Hargis. “We are functioning with our companions to help them transition to the new actuality, but that signifies the clinic in Tijuana is closing in the following 7 days. It is really hard to see what the foreseeable future holds, but I’m proud of the perform we have accomplished and the hundreds of people we have served in our clinic.”

With the clinic closing, supplies will be donated to Mexico Town to assistance Ukrainian refugees and to humanitarian organizations in Tijuana performing with refugees.

For Christina, who is Ukrainian American, receiving associated in the clinic has assisted her cope with the devastation she sees overseas.

“It has been so cathartic to enable fellow Ukrainians who have escaped the war by delivering healthcare treatment and making their transition to the United States easier,” she explained.

“Ukraine will never be the identical: It will be tainted with all the casualties of war and the destruction of its beautiful metropolitan areas. That will hardly ever absolutely at any time go away,” said Christina. “But Ukrainians are powerful and resilient — I’m attempting to stay as hopeful as I can.”