Karen Schneider took her first medical mission trip in 1994 as a curious fourth-year medical student from State University of New York. Her destination was Guyana, South America, where a malaria epidemic had left hundreds ill, and a few had already died. Because she could insert an IV and give fluid boluses, Schneider estimates she treated about 100 patients during her two weeks there.
Now a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, Schneider says, “I realized that simple interventions in very rural areas could be lifesaving. It changed my life in wanting to reach out to people who were very rural and who didn’t have access to health care.”
Each year, Schneider takes four trips to underserved areas of Haiti, Guyana, Kenya and Nigeria. A school of medicine faculty member since 2002, she invites the medical residents in the international child health class she teaches to join her on the missions. Schneider and the volunteers screen for anemia, and treat intestinal worms and skin rashes.
They have performed hundreds of lifesaving surgeries over the last 15 years. One of the highlights of Schneider’s work has been successfully treating a 2-month-old who spent four days alone crushed in the rubble of an earthquake in Haiti.
The charity she founded, Mercy Medical Mission, covers the cost of the young physicians’ airfare and medical supplies, thanks to more than $1.1 million in grants and donations she has raised over the years.
Schneider has been a sister since she was 21 years old and is a member of the Sisters of Mercy. She taught high school math before she entered medical school in her late 20s.