Eight Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences students recently made history as participants in OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine’s first international rotation in Uganda.
“This is the first time we have offered this experience in Uganda as a selective elective rotation for our third- or fourth-year students,” said Robin Dyer, D.O., OSU-COM associate dean for academic affairs and professor and chair of the osteopathic manipulative medicine department. “Opportunities like this are important because students who are part of an international medical trip typically tend to gravitate toward primary care and rural areas to practice.”
Dyer said the educational experience blends well with OSU-COM’s mission to improve the health of rural Oklahomans.
The rotation is part of an international educational partnership with Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe and the Saint Monica’s Girls Vocational School. OSU-COM students participating in the rotation are gaining exposure to other cultures, health systems and populations through the international medical rotation.
The medical students who participated in the rotation are Nicole Abel, Shcarry Chatmon, Cassandra Clay, Beth DeWitt, Katie Latendresse, Bekah Martin, Eric Morrison and Claudia Nkeih. Rhonda Casey, D.O., chair and associate professor of pediatrics, and Sarah Hall, D.O., assistant professor of family medicine, coordinated the course and also traveled to Uganda. The group left for Uganda on Sept. 10 and will return on Thursday, Sept. 24.
“This is an incredible opportunity to learn rural medicine in an international setting while receiving instruction from both OSU and Ugandan physicians,” said DeWitt.
The medical problems faced by those who live in rural Uganda are different than what is typically seen in the U.S. Students have seen about 70 adults and children each day during clinics at a primary school in Nyenga and at St. Monica’s Girls School in Gulu, including many patients with malaria.
DeWitt said the group also took a portable ultrasound machine that has enabled the students to assist pregnant women in learning the health and gender of their child.
“This is a benefit that was previously unavailable to them,” she said.
In addition, the medical students traveled to Jinja to provide care for children at a school sponsored by the Tim Case International Ministries of Tulsa. They also shared presentations they had prepared with Ugandan medical students and physicians and learned from them about the country’s unique health care needs.
“This experience helps students improve diagnostic skills and become more empathetic and culturally sensitive physicians,” said Kayse Shrum, D.O., OSU-CHS president. “Those attributes will benefit them as they begin careers in rural and underserved Oklahoma.”
Nyirumbe works with girls abducted from their families and forced to serve as sex slaves for officers in Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. Saint Monica’s is a refuge where these young women learn to sew clothes, grow food and learn a trade to support themselves and their families.
OSU-COM’s Pros for Africa student group is affiliated with the Pros for Africa Foundation in Oklahoma City founded by Reggie Whitten, whose daughter graduated from OSU’s medical school.
Since launching its partnership with Sister Rosemary and her school, OSU-COM and the Pros for Africa student club has collected and donated pop tabs to the school for the women in Uganda to use to make purses, dresses and tops. The school also teaches women to cook and sew so they can leave with a marketable trade to support themselves and their children, Dyer said.
The student group also organizes bake sales and crockpot lunches to raise money to support a Ugandan medical student in an effort to address the shortage of physicians in the country.
“This international rotation is one of many collaborative endeavors with Sister Rosemary and Saint Monica’s that has proven to be valuable to our both Ugandans and our own students,” Dyer said. “We look forward to many more rotations and medical missions to come.”