Wayne State medical students take advantage of their breaks within the school year not to rest, but to give back and grow, jumping at opportunities for service learning missions and global health projects provided by various student organizations, including the World Health Student Organization, the Global Health Alliance and the Latino Medical Student Assocation. In 2019, many first- and second-year medical students traveled as far as India and Ecuador, applying and refining the skills learned in their medical education courses, gaining wholesome life lessons and witnessing first-hand how social determinants of health impact different communities around the globe.
Gaining valuable experiences
Eight medical students and three volunteer physicians traveled with the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s World Health Student Organization to Ecuador this spring to work and learn from Ecuadorian physicians and volunteers. They spent two days completing clinic work in the town of Nayon, then traveled to Southern Quito to spend two days shadowing at the Enrique Garces Hospital.
“All of the students on the trip took their own lessons from the trip, mostly because each of the cases and brigade roles we played had enough variety to provide a range of experiences. This was a good opportunity to internalize many of the lessons and tools we had been given over our first year at Wayne, as well as gain a new perspective on the livelihood, difficulties and capabilities of the people and physicians of a country none of us had visited,” class of 2022 medical student Rafael Ramos said.
The students who traveled with WHSO are each actively engaged in either clinical or service groups on campus.
“This experience served to reinvigorate our desires to become a force of change throughout the course of our medical educations, even if the problems we face are multi-faceted and daunting,” Ramos explained.
Focusing on social determinants of health
Four Wayne State University medical students and two faculty members traveled to the Dominican Republic with the World Health Student Organization to learn about international health care systems, conduct health screenings and teach students about important health topics.
“This trip highlighted the social determinants of health and the challenges that cultural norms can create in providing care in other countries," class of 2022 medical student Kristie Khatibi said.
"We learned about the importance of taking into consideration an individual’s cultural beliefs when teaching sensitive subjects like reproductive health to students at local schools. It forced us to take a different approach to health promotion and to address problems in a different manner than we would in the U.S. We saw this come up in clinics when many patients wanted to utilize traditional medicine over western medicine, even when it was detrimental to them."
Applying learned skills
Hilton Head Island in South Carolina is known as a beautiful vacation destination filled with southern charm and the character of a resort town. But five Wayne State medical students saw it as an area in need of medical volunteers, traveling there at the end of their first year of medical school to shadow and translate for the physicians and staff at the Volunteers in Medicine Clinic, or VIM, on Hilton Head Island. The trip to Hilton Head in March 2019 was organized by Amigos Medicos, a chapter of the Latino Medical Student Association.
“All five medical students who partook in this trip were comfortable communicating in Spanish to work as interpreters for the staff and physicians. All of us were paired with physicians of different specialties over our one-week stay, and did our best to be linguistic bridges during key aspects of the visit, such as obtaining patient histories and explaining follow up procedures and medication instructions,” class of 2022 medical student Rafael Ramos said.
Most of the practicing physicians are retired and work at the VIM clinic as a way to help the community. The clinic is funded entirely by donations and remains in operation because of the staff’s volunteer efforts.
“The five of us really got a chance to get to know each other over our weeklong experience, and in so doing we happened to reflect a lot on our medical school experiences up to that point. The new curriculum has made a point of highlighting key social determinants of health, empathy during patient interaction, and has placed a focus on getting all first years with basic clinical skill maneuvers. All of these were brought to the forefront during our experience, as we all found ourselves capable of guiding the conversations when interacting with the patients and obtaining key information to help the doctors make the best diagnosis,” he added.
Highlighting cultural competence
Wayne State medical students Mara Darian and Anneliese Petersen traveled to Anupshahr, a village in Uttar Pradesh, India, to learn about global health from individuals who are practicing it themselves through the Global and Urban Health Equity program.
“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.
“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,” she added.