When Lorenzo Bosque learned that Hurricane Irma had devastated his homeland of Puerto Rico, he felt he had to do something to help.
“Medical supplies had been donated to the island, but there was difficulty getting them to remote hospitals that were blocked off due to hurricane damage,” said Bosque, a senior at the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences. “One particular need that moved me was the dire lack of supplies at the San Jorge Children’s Hospital, and I just wanted to do something.”
Bosque enlisted the support of the Phi Delta Epsilon society at UCF, an international medical fraternity for which he serves as chapter president. He also collaborated with the Academy of Family Physicians and the Coalition of Family Medicine Doctors in Puerto Rico.
With donations from major retailers like Walmart and Walgreens, and the support of Phi Delta Epsilon chapters across the U.S., Bosque and the team were able to collect 2,500 pounds of food and medical supplies including antibiotic ointments, over-the-counter medication, nutritional shakes, canned food and water.
“Our main concern was whether we would have the same problem of transporting the supplies to where they were needed,’ Bosque said. “So we made a plan to send the supplies by private transport and then doctors themselves would collect them and take them to wherever they were needed.”
A medical insurance company, First Medical, heard about the students’ initiative and funded a private plane to transport all the supplies to Puerto Rico.
On November 6, the team packed up 2,500 pounds of food and medical supplies in the chartered cargo plane, with Bosque onboard to coordinate distribution on the ground.
“When I got there, I was shocked to see the devastation,” Bosque recalled. “I had heard about it, but seeing it in person was different.”
Once the plane landed at the Luis Muñoz Marin Airport in Puerto Rico, local doctors collected supplies and loaded them into their vehicles for delivery to San Jorge and other medical centers.
“There were so much debris and downed trees blocking the streets,” Bosque said, “and in order to get to the hospitals in different communities, the doctors would have to get out of their cars and move as much debris as possible. They would have to do this five or six times before they got to their destination.”
The local hospitals were grateful for the supplies, and the team’s efforts were recognized by Puerto Rico’s First Lady, Beatriz Rosselló.
Bosque and his team are working on another shipment for December 18, with plans to surpass the previous donation.
“We want to collect literally a ton of supplies this time,” Bosque said. “Even three months after the hurricane, Puerto Rico still needs our help.”
Bosque moved to Orlando four years ago, accompanying his grandfather who came to seek treatment for stage-4 lung cancer. After spending a year following his grandfather to his medical appointments, Bosque, who already had a psychology degree, decided he wanted to be a doctor. Shortly after his grandfather passed, he enrolled at the Burnett School. After graduation, he plans to complete a master’s degree in neuroscience before heading to medical school.
“I saw the impact that the physicians had on my grandfather and how they were able to improve his quality of life in his final year,” Bosque said. “Before he came to the U.S. for treatment, he could barely get out of bed, but once he started therapy here, he was able to walk again, to go out and do things. And I want to do that for people.”
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