WKU junior works to bring medical assistance to Latin America

Sam Fugate is the co-founder and president of the WKU chapter of Global Brigades, a nonprofit that focuses on sustainable development in Nicaragua, Honduras and Ghana. Fugate is head of the WKU branch which is a medical chapter. The group brings in doctors, dentists and pharmacists to rural areas to provide them with access to healthcare. “We get to show the residents of these rural communities that they are not alone and that there are people who care about them even when the government doesn’t,”Fugate said.

Noah Moore

Junior Sam Fugate shaped his college experience by choosing to make cross-continental change through a medical organization, Global Brigades. He co-founded the WKU chapter of Global Brigades, which has university chapters around the world, with Merry Krueger, who graduated from WKU last year and who will be starting medical school in the fall at the University of Kentucky. 

Global Brigades is a nonprofit health and sustainability organization that works to positively shape the lives of those in impoverished environments in Central America and East Africa, Fugate said. He said he was inspired to bring a chapter to campus in spring 2016 because of its reliance on student volunteers. 

Fugate is majoring in pre-med. He is also an admissions ambassador and volunteer through Best Buddies, a volunteer organization for those with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Though he is involved with many organizations, he built Global Brigades from the ground up at WKU.

“Global Brigades provides the funding and assistance to support the doctors and bring these clinics to the rural communities of Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras and Ghana,” Fugate said. “We recognized that both the students here on the Hill, and the individuals in these rural communities could benefit by just bringing this group to campus.”

Since its beginning, Global Brigades has aimed to give its participants a way to give back through unique, intercultural experiences. The organization took members to Nicaragua from Aug. 1-9 in 2016 and to Panama from June 3-9 in 2017. This summer, they will be returning to Nicaragua from July 28 to Aug. 5.

The work done on the trips has included tasks like pouring concrete, working in medical clinics and dental offices, helping in pharmacies and teaching the communities about health and wellbeing.

Junior Katie Wilmes, a Global Brigades member, knows firsthand what hands on service means. She traveled with the group to Panama in 2017, and she said she can barely describe the beauty of the place and the amazing work she did.

“We were mixing concrete to build sanitary bathrooms that had concrete floors with running water for a shower and a sink, and a chambered bathroom,” Wilmes said. “The importance of helping build these was to limit the spread of disease. Interacting with everyone in the community was so memorable.”

The trips also serve as a bonding experience for WKU students to meet people with similar interests who they didn’t know attended the same university.

Wilmes said Fugate had a profound impact on her experience as a leader in the organization with a great deal of duties on his plate.

“Sam is a responsible and professional person who successfully led more than 20 students to a foreign country and back with no injuries,” Wilmes said. “He works hard to have everything organized and communicated with every member to make sure every aspect is explained. He always remains calm with a smile on his face.”

Through Global Brigades, Fugate and the members of the organization have been able to provide medical assistance to the global community. Wilmes said Global Brigades is not solely for future health professionals, but also for teachers and anyone who wants to provide necessary health care to struggling communities through embodying service, much like Fugate does.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article did not mention Merry Krueger as co-founder of Global Brigades. The article has been edited accordingly.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article did not clarify that Global Brigades has university chapters around the world and that WKU’s is just one of its chapters. The article and photo caption have been since edited to provide clarity about the structure of the organization. 

Features reporter Noah moore can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @noah_moore18.