Global Health Student Interest Group helps Students Prepare for Experiences Abroad

Taylor Goller ’16 and Karl Kristiansen eat dinner with the Luboga family during their global health elective in Uganda. Pictured are Dr. Luboga and his wife, Christine, as well as his nieces, Nice and Narissa, and Eunice Fu, a second-year medical student from the University of Connecticut. (Photo courtesy of Majid Sadigh, M.D.)
Taylor Goller ’16 and Karl Kristiansen eat dinner with the Luboga family during their global health elective in Uganda. Pictured are Dr. Luboga and his wife, Christine, as well as his nieces, Nice and Narissa, and Eunice Fu, a second-year medical student from the University of Connecticut. (Photo courtesy of Majid Sadigh, M.D.)

Since starting school last fall it’s been amazing to me how willing, and even eager, so many students are to add more commitments and responsibilities on top of the already rigorous academic course load.  In many ways, I think the student interest groups and other organizations help to balance the unfortunate monotony of the classroom and to maintain perspective on the ultimate goals of medical education, namely the support of humanity.   Equally as impressive is the willingness of the faculty to lend their expertise to these extracurricular pursuits.  They offer an outstanding model of generosity of time that I can only hope to emulate when I one day have the chance to pay it down the line.

This past fall I had the fortunate opportunity to help organize and participate in one of these extracurriculars in the form of a series of workshops in Global Health offered by the Global Health Student Interest Group (GHSIG).

With the recent establishment of partnerships with institutions in Uganda, Russia, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe there are more opportunities than ever for medical students at UVM to explore their interest in global health.  And based on a survey conducted by the GHSIG last spring, there is broad interest among students to take advantage of these opportunities.  Many students use the summer in between first and second year to travel and work in a medical setting abroad, but few resources currently exist to prepare first and  second-year students for these experiences,which can be emotionally, ethically, and clinically challenging.  With that in mind, the GHSIG reviewed the syllabi from established courses in Global Health and developed a series of workshops facilitated by members of the UVM/ Fletcher Allen faculty.

On Tuesday evenings throughout the fall the open workshops have convened to cover topics that included specific disease processes as well broader themes in international medicine (see table below).  And while every session has certainly been informative, an equal value comes from having the opportunity to meet as a group of interested students and faculty to discuss common interests and share diverse experiences.  Dr. Bob Macauley’s recent lesson on the adaptation of the tenets of medical ethics to low resource international settings was incredibly interesting and prompted the kind of debate and discussion that is often neglected during the first two years of medical school.  But it was equally valuable to hear some of his anecdotal experiences from time spent in Uganda and Kenya as we students begin to consider how our interest in global health will translate into a part of our careers.

As we approach our final session this month, the workshops’ future is unclear.  I hope we have done enough groundwork to pass the sessions to subsequent classes and maybe even help contribute to the eventual establishment of an institutionally-backed certificate course in Global Health.  But for now I am grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in the workshops and for the faculty and classmates that helped make it happen.  It’s only a sliver of what faculty and students at the school do on a regular basis, but it’s one of those many small steps on the long path that I have really appreciated. I hope others have as well.

Topics Faculty Facilitators
Intro/Structures of Global Health Dr. Mariah McNamara, Emergency Medicine
Social Determinants of Health Dr. Jan Carney, Pulmonary Medicine
HIV/TB Dr. Chris Grace and Dr. Kemper Alston, Infectious   Disease
Malaria Dr. Lincoln Heath, Family Medicine
Maternal Health/Urogenital fistula Dr. Anne Dougherty, Obstetrics and Gynecology
Ethics of Global Health Dr. Robert Macauley, Pediatrics
Epidemiology/Future Directions Dr. Mariah McNamara, Emergency Medicine
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