Landry Gwin | Biology and Pre-Med ('15)

Landry Gwin

Senior biology/pre-med major from Nashville, Tenn.

It took four people speaking three languages, but Landry Gwin and the woman he huddled with were praying the same prayer.

A senior pre-med biology major, Landry spent spring break in Guatemala doing medical missions work, sometimes assisting with surgeries and other procedures, other times praying with patients after their appointment was over.

“After the prayer, she grabbed me,” Landry said of one elderly patient, “and said something to me in the local K’iche’ language.“

They needed two translators to bring the words from the native Mayan language to Spanish to English.

“During the prayer, she was also praying that you would be safe and have a happy year,” the translator told him. They had been praying the same thing over each other.

Landry said the trip – his second to Guatemala as an ACU student – showed him “this is the kind of impact I can have on people if I become a doctor.”

Landry grew up knowing ACU was a likely destination – both parents and an older brother attended, and a younger brother is a freshman this year – but it wasn’t a sure thing until he visited the campus.

“I realized ACU was the place I needed to be,” he said. “It just fit – it felt right. The community was exciting. I just loved it. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

As a sophomore, Landry got plugged into the Gamma Sigma Phi social club, then as a junior he took his first trip to Guatemala, where ACU students worked with Health Talents International to provide medical care at drastically reduced rates to villagers with little or no access to it.

In 2013, the group was based at the Health Talents clinic in Montellano, itself a small village, and traveled as many as 40 miles away to even more isolated communities – “basically shacks,” Landry said – to provide basic medical services.

“We’d arrive at 9 a.m.,” he said, “and there’s a line of 50, 60, 70 people waiting on us.”

In March, they stayed in town, and villagers came to them; students helped with surgeries, especially to remove cataracts, but also repairing injuries such as a torn meniscus. Landry and two other students organized the trip.

Students also helped with the check-in process and, as a final step, praying with the patients before they left the clinic.

“They can’t understand what I’m saying, but they realize I’m praying for them,” Landry said, adding that the local custom was to speak aloud in agreement alongside the prayer, both versions rising in two languages. “That’s a cool little moment.”

As a result of the experience, Landry plans to attend medical school after graduation with a goal of becoming a primary-care doctor in a rural, underserved area of the United States.

“I loved it,” he said. “I loved meeting the people there. It got me out of my cultural bubble a lot. It showed me what my future as a doctor could be.”

When he was picking a college, the notion of two medical missions trips to Guatemala was not even on the horizon, Landry said.

As a teaching assistant for freshman biology labs, he looks to influence other students in the way those trips have influenced him – and all of it facilitated in large part by scholarships funded by ACU’s generous donors.

Scholarships fund more than half of Landry’s tuition, providing significant peace of mind, especially with medical school looming.

“Thank you so much for letting me have an impact on so many people,” he said. “To be able to have those medical mission trips – this is your money in action.”

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