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  • Aiden Fiterstein

Floating Doctors Medical Mission - Panama

Updated: Feb 26

What a privilege and honor to work as a volunteer with Floating Doctors and the Ngäbe-Bugle indigenous communities in Bocas del Toro, Panama! I participated in several medical missions to Rio Este, Sharkhole, Valle Escondido, and Rio Oeste providing equal access to healthcare services while educating many of these under-served communities. My proficiency in Spanish certainly came in handy when I was able to do patient intake and reassure our younger patients during dental surgeries. I also helped fill prescriptions and distributed these much-needed medicines. As a result of this experience, I have pledged to return and pursue higher education in global health.

Information on the Ngäbe-Bugle The Ngäbe-Bugle are proud people, but they can also be reserved and private. Respecting their way of life is essential because they have their own beliefs. Our goal at Floating Doctors is to help in any way we can without disrupting, disrespecting, or destroying the environment. Despite our attempts to help, we must recognize that we are guests in their community. It is our responsibility as guests to respect and honor their beliefs and way of life.

Ngäbe-Bugle population is less than 1,000 people

These are primarily agricultural communities living in an archipelago with limited services and no health center. To get to these communities you must travel by boat.


The houses are supported by sticks with grass or a zinc roof and a dirt floor. If they have a zinc roof, they can use it to gather rain into cisterns.


The Ngäbe-Bugle grow corn, rice beans, bananas, cacao, and coffee along with other fruits and vegetables. Meat is rarely eaten, although many families keep cows, pigs, ducks, and chickens (to lay eggs).

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