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Thank a Farmworker

Every June, a coalition of students from universities in Georgia travel to the southwest part of the state to run The Farmworker Family Health Program, an intensive two week clinic designed to offer care to migrant farmworkers and their families. Dr. Judith Wold 81MN coordinates the program from the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.

By Elizabeth Cobb Durel
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Southwest Georgia is an agricultural oasis. The land is flat and the farms stretch for acres upon acres. On any given day you could drive by rows of corn, peanuts or peppers. Many of the crops can be harvested by machine or tool, but some cannot. “Eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and peppers,” says Dr. Judith Wold 81N. “All of those have to be picked by hand, usually by migrant farmworkers. And they have to be planted too.”

Dr. Wold began her career as a public health nurse with a strong interest in vulnerable populations and began work with the Farmworker Family Health Program during her time at another university. In 2001, when she returned to the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing as the Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Lillian Carter Center for International Nursing, the program came with her.

So in June, at the height of the harvesting season, a coalition of students from universities across Georgia, caravanned down to Southwest Georgia to spend two weeks running a clinic for migrant farmworkers. Nursing students from the undergraduate and graduate programs at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, students from the University of Georgia School of Pharmacy, the Georgia State University Department of Physical Therapy, Clayton State University, and Darton College Departments of Dental Hygiene travel to Colquitt, Cook, Brooks and Tift counties. And they work long hours to offer much needed health care to as many patients as they can in the short time they have.

Student View

Applicants go through a rigorous application process and, if accepted, spend three weeks in intensive training beforehand.  “I was so nervous about the whole experience,” says Sarah Julius, now a senior in the BSN program at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. “Most of the population would only speak Spanish and I don’t.” But by the end of the first day, it was coming together. “I started to see how people were really affected by what we do. Actions that seemed mundane to us were so impactful for them.”

What They Do

After settling into the Hampton Inn in Moultrie, Georgia, the crew got to work, in conjunction with locally based The Ellenton Farmworker Clinic. During the day, the group offered well checks and assessments to farmworkers’ children enrolled in summer school programs. Borrowing space in an elementary school gymnasium, they pricked fingers, checked blood pressure and tested the kids’ vision. “It was very much like an acute patient setting,” says Julius. “There was lots of autonomy, but also so much collaboration.”

At night, the group set up a makeshift clinic on the farms to be ready to help the farmworkers’ themselves with their needs as they came in from the fields. Treatment for the men was much like an urgent care clinic. The students educated their patients on foot care and treated their blisters. They took blood and offered referrals and because “most of these men are living in barracks,” says Dr. Wold. “Their closer quarters and overall living conditions just made it ripe for the flu.”

Thank a Farmworker

“Though it’s a challenge to arrange with all the groups of people involved, it’s important to take care of these people if we can,” says Wold, adding “If you have food on your table, thank a farmworker.”

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Read Sarah Julius’s first-hand account of the experience.

Listen to an in-depth interview with Dr. Judith Wold, beginning at 40:34