June 17, 2019

Warrior M.D.s around the world: Medical students travel to India for global health project

Mara Darian, a second-year medical student at Wayne State University, found the perfect capstone project for the Global and Urban Health Equity program, or GLUE.

“I elected to join a community health development project directed by Dr. Vijaya Arun Kumar, as it ties well with my personal interest in sustainable global health work performed at the community level,” she said. 

Jumping at the opportunity to learn about global health from individuals who are practicing it themselves, Darian traveled to Anupshahr, a village in Uttar Pradesh, India, through GLUE.

“The project, entitled the Community Health Education Initiative, which reflects a partnership between Wayne State University and Pardada Pardadi Educational Society, is a non-profit girls school that champions community health through an onsite school clinic and a staff of community health workers who work with the 117 villages surrounding the school,” Darian explained.

The GLUE program is the teaching and education component of the Wayne State University Global Health Alliance. The program has a three-part structure that consists of seminars, local advocacy and a capstone project. The two-year program is designed to offer students the opportunity to gain comprehensive knowledge and skills surrounding global health by providing a foundational education in the pillars of health equity, local and international educational opportunities that focus on the care of underserved and vulnerable populations, and participation in the community through health advocacy. 

Members of the Global Health Alliance community are in partnership with organizations around the globe through education, research and clinical service to find solutions to health care’s biggest challenges.

Before leaving for the trip, students like Darian identified two areas of concern – fever and asthma – and developed educational materials.

“What drew me to this project was its emphasis on sustainability and cultural competence by utilizing community health workers to empower female village leaders. I felt that I had a lot to learn from the way CHEI was engaging in global health in an asset-driven, socially-responsible manner,” Darian said.

There were five students involved with CHEI. Another Wayne State medical student, Anneliese Petersen, joined her in India.

“We particularly enjoyed learning from the staff, observing their ability to engage the audience by making our initial materials more relevant, and developing a rapport with audience members. It was clear that the staff has worked exceedingly hard to grow relationships with village women, which permitted them to be excellent educators.”

Darian and Petersen also spent time at a health center open to the approximately 1,400 students at Pardada Pardadi as well as anyone in the surrounding villages. The center is staffed with one nurse and two doctors.

“At the health center, we had an opportunity to see a couple of primary care patients as they presented at the clinic. This was done under the supervision of the local health care professionals, as well as two United States-trained physicians --Dr. Brian Gee, a family medicine physician and Dr. Kanan Maniar, a rheumatologist. Both volunteer at the health center, and made sure that the experience was on par with what would be expected of an international experience for a U.S. medical student,” Darian added

travels to IndiaThe students were also able to participate in a handwashing workshop, helped deliver typhoid vaccinations and discussed concerns with some students about attending college and staying safe in a large city.

“We are both extremely grateful for the people and institutions making it possible to travel to Anupshahr. The GLUE program connected us with one of its faculty Dr. Kumar, who directs and supervises the CHEI program, and has been a wonderful mentor for medical students. We were also able to visit and stay in Anupshahr due to the extreme generosity of the founder of PPES, Sam Singh, who welcomed us into his home. It was an incredible experience to learn from the way CHEI conducts global health work, and an important part of our medical school education,” she said.

WSUGHA was formed to train leaders in global health who will set national and international standards of best practice in global and urban health education, service, research, policy and advocacy. Learn more at wsugha.org.