DMU slowly resumes international rotations

Kasia Marciniec in Colombia

After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the DMU Department of Global Health is slowly resuming some international rotations. This year, we have a small number of students, 14, scheduled to travel to three of our international sites – Hillside Clinic in Belize, Juan N. Corpas in Bogota, Colombia and CHUK in Kigali, Rwanda. The first of these DMU students completed rotations in February in Belize and Colombia.  

During the past two years, we have offered our students virtual global health opportunities with some of our international partners, including virtual research rotations and, last year, a virtual spring break experience in Vietnam. These virtual opportunities have been very successful and have offered students an opportunity to engage in global health without leaving their home. While we are excited about resuming international travel, we plan on continuing to offer the virtual opportunities as well.

Tope Banwo at Hillside in Belize

Katherine “Kasia” Marciniec, a fourth-year student in DMU’s doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) program, had a rotation in internal medicine in Bogota, Colombia, at Juan N. Corpas University, an experience she describes as “one of the hardest yet most rewarding things I have ever done.”

“Not only was I immersed into a country that only spoke Spanish, but I was also forced to learn how to adapt and commute in this gritty, densely populated city exuding vibrancy and culture at every corner,” she says. “Although I was living out of my comfort zone on a daily basis, I eventually grew to gain confidence in my speaking skills and navigate the city. While I saw patients on the weekdays with various pathologies I had never encountered in the U.S., I took advantage of the weekends and explored Colombia by capturing the beautiful landscape of the country.”

Temitope “Tope” Banwo, also a fourth-year D.O. student, rotated at Hillside in Belize. She hopes to return some day to gain more experience specifically with gynecological patients.

“I’ve loved having the ability to spend as much time as I need with each patient and being so close/easily collaborating with other professionals on the care team,” she says. “I can take time to dig deep into issues and provide them with the utmost attention. I don’t have to worry about seeing as many patients as possible or about excessive charting, coding, insurance. I just get to give the care I want to every patient I encounter, and it’s been incredible to experience the fruit of that type of care.

“I don’t love the feeling of helplessness that comes with not being able to provide very much for some of my very sick patients,” she notes. “For example, last week I had a patient with recurrence of her uterine cancer, but it was clear she had metastasized to her spine when we saw the X-ray she brought in, and she was having excruciating pain. All we could offer were heat patches, Tylenol/NSAIDs and topical diclofenac, which of course didn’t touch her pain. That part is really hard.”

Zoe Au at Hillside

Zoe Au, who will graduate in May from DMU’s physician assistant program, also experienced a rotation at Hillside. She found that having fewer resources there compared to many U.S. health care settings honed her abilities.

“Because access to medical care, testing and imaging is very limited, I feel like I can use my diagnostic skills to help people who really need me,” she says. “I wouldn’t trade my time at Hillside for anything. I recommend an international rotation to everyone who can make it happen. It will challenge and humble you and open up your view of the world.”

Global health experiences, the students say, will benefit their future patients wherever they are.

“In general, this has also been a great hands-on lesson in being a good steward of limited resources and being creative with what we do have on hand,” Tope says. “I look forward to translating those skills to my future patients and will really think twice before I order tests and labs. This is something I’ve known before, but it definitely was ingrained here by force.

“I’m so incredibly thankful for the lessons learned, the experience had, the restoration and reevaluation of priorities, and most importantly the community, people and relationships,” she adds. “All of these will hold a special place in my heart.”

Tope, second from left, enjoyed working with other students and staff in interprofessional teams.
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