By Ryan Ball
Moving beyond the metropolis of Panama City and into the rural provinces, Keck School of Medicine of USC student Javier Sotelo was struck by the disparity in health-care accessibility he witnessed. He was surprised to find himself handing out emergency kits to midwives and educators, who provide primary care in areas where physician visits involve traveling several hours over dirt roads.
Sotelo was one of 32 students who studied abroad last semester as part of USC’s Master of Science in Global Medicine program. He and some classmates recently participated in the inaugural Global Citizenship Roundtable, where they shared their experiences and encouraged Keck School of Medicine of USC students to broaden their perspective.
In addition to Panama, students visited Taiwan, Honduras and India.
Global Medicine Program Director Elahe Nezami, PhD, commented, “By immersing them in the different cultures to observe the health-care systems available to such populations, our students return to USC brimming with ideas about how they can positively affect the world’s health needs and, more importantly, eager to share those ideas and involve others.”
Shirin Heydar, one of the students visiting Taiwan, returned inspired by the words of Tzay-Jinn Chen, MD, MPH, an internist at Taipei Medical University Hospital.
Summing up the Taiwanese approach to medicine, Chen said, “A doctor who treats a disease is mediocre. A doctor who treats a person holistically is sufficient. But a doctor who treats a community is superior.”
Student Andrew Florin said he saw talent, determination, and grit in abundance in the physicians he observed in India. “Despite a major lack of resources that would all but cripple a weaker nation, the physicians and other health-care professionals of India somehow push forward with confidence, ingenuity and resolve,” he said.
During the 2013-2014 school year, Global Medicine students will be visiting nine countries, traveling with medical students from the Keck School and students from the USC Primary Care Physician Assistant (PA) program.
To get a preview of what his PA students would experience, Christopher Forest, MSHS, assistant professor of clinical family medicine, accompanied the group to Honduras, where he saw the students grow in a number of ways.
When the students realized that some patients had to wait a while for medical attention, they went out and bought coloring books, crayons and powdered milk, Forest recalled. “The simple gesture of our students handing out cold milk to children in a part of the hospital that had no air conditioning was something that touched me,” Forest said.
Photos from the various trips will be on display in a special exhibit in the Hoyt Gallery in the Keith Administration building in October.
For more information about the Global Citizenship Roundtable or the Master of Science in Global Medicine program, visit http://keckmed.usc.edu/msgm.