Jul 10 2013
Old Westbury, N.Y. (July 10, 2013) — Teams of New York Institute of Technology medical students recently returned from trips to Ghana and Costa Rica, where they visited local clinics, conducted surveys, and honed global health and cultural skills.
A third team departed over the weekend for a two-week trip to El Salvador to build on last year’s work
to educate local residents about Chagas’ disease, a tropical parasitic illness that affects the cardiac, digestive, and nervous systems.
“They are seeing things you won’t see in the United States,” said Assistant Professor Michael Passafaro, D.O., of the NYIT Center for Global Health
. “Here in the U.S., you will not see the barriers to health care (as) in these countries. They also see the joy that we’re able to give the people of El Salvador, Ghana
and Costa Rica.”
Bednets, Balls, and Books
For the third consecutive year, students on the Ghana trip emphasized the importance of using bednets to help prevent malaria, put on a puppet show to illustrate how the disease is spread, and distributed an anti-malaria children’s story written by NYIT students and alumni.
Between rounds at Hawa Memorial Saviour Hospital, case discussions, and community health screenings, the students also gave sturdy new soccer balls to children, distributed donated medical supplies, and presented a new EKG machine to the hospital, purchased with proceeds from the sale of photographs from last year’s trip.
The soccer ball donation was initiated by Bo Cui, a second-year student who discovered the One World Futbol Project, a nonprofit organization that manufactures durable soccer balls designed to be donated in disadvantaged and underdeveloped areas. Cui and Passafaro secured a donation and brought the balls to Ghana, where local school children cheered as they were distributed.
Cui, a native of China who emigrated to America 14 years ago, said the trip was at once educational, illuminating, humble, and emotional.
“You’re seeing the impact you make,” he said, referring to the health care so valued in rural areas. “I embraced the moment – it was something I will never forget. “
Even with grueling second-year studies and boards ahead of him, along with additional years of school, rotations, and residencies, Cui said he realizes how privileged he is to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor.
“In global health, I realized: we’re all tied in together,” said Cui. “The trip will always remind me why I’m doing this.”
A Partnership Grows in Costa Rica
Ten days after her return from Costa Rica with three other students and a faculty member, Katie Glover is still marveling over her observation of two births and surgical procedures, the opportunity to see a patient recovering from a rare tropical disease, and her rapid absorption of Spanish medical terms.
“It really rejuvenated me and made me excited about medicine again,” said Glover. “It was an amazing experience – I’m so glad I went.”
The students stayed with host families and spent 20 days in Costa Rica as part of a cultural immersion partnership program with Universidad de Iberomamerica or UNIBE, a medical school. During the day, they shadowed doctors at Hospital Dr. Calderon Guardia and at Clinica de Coronado, part of Costa Rica’s universal healthcare system.
“It was very interesting to see how a different system could work and how it could be looked at here,” said Sonia Rivera-Martinez, D.O., NYIT assistant professor of family medicine, who accompanied the group. “I was impressed by the way they were pooling their resources.”
Glover said the intense immersion in medical Spanish and culture lessons were invaluable.
“It’s such a good skill to have, especially since I want to practice in the New York/New Jersey area,” she said.
Returning to El Salvador
Eight students and three faculty members arrived Sunday in El Salvador, with plans to visit clinics, meet with local “health promoters,” and teach young students about healthy behaviors. In the town of Perquin, they will distribute surveys before and after local presentations on Chagas’ disease. The students are continuing an educational effort on Chagas’ that began last year when NYIT students screened more than 300 residents for the disease.
Hope-Elizabeth Clennon and Candice Williams were prepared to demonstrate a project on oral health care that emphasized tooth-brushing techniques with baking soda.
“I decided to go on the global health trip because I really love to travel and I wanted to experience and new culture and see how I could make a positive impact there,” said Clennon, a native of Jamaica. “I would like to help improve the health conditions in Jamaica and also in other countries around the world. However, it is a global effort that requires everyone pitching in…I hope to open clinics in under-served areas in different parts of the world based on the needs of the country and the healthcare workers of that country.”
Melissa Meghpara, an academic medicine scholar on the Ghana and El Salvador trips, said her interest in global health has grown during her time at NYIT.
"I always found it unfortunate that people in certain areas of th world are suffering from very treatable and preventable diseases," Meghpara said. ""I know that realistically we can't cure all diseases, but common diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea are easily treated if we can educate people in these areas."
The team will return to New York on July 22.
New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) offers 90 degree programs, including undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees, in more than 50 fields of study, including architecture and design; arts and sciences; education; engineering and computing sciences; health professions; management; and osteopathic medicine. A non-profit independent, private institution of higher education, NYIT has 13,000 students attending campuses on Long Island and Manhattan, online, and at its global campuses. NYIT sponsors 11 NCAA Division II programs and one Division I team.
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