Every year, teams from West Virginia University’s Schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, Public Health and Pharmacy participate in clinical rotations at locations across the world. These rotations are coordinated by WVU’s Global Health Program, under the leadership of Melanie A. Fisher, M.D., M.Sc.

During the 2018 spring semester, health professions students, faculty physicians and medical residents traveled to Guatemala, Oman and Rwanda. Other groups will travel to Brazil, Fiji, Ghana, Paraguay, and Italy. Each global health rotation lasts about a month. In addition to clinical experience, students gain insights into culture, communication and relationships as well as increase their medical skills.

“The students not only serve others on these rotations but also gain tremendously from their experiences, including skills that will make them better healthcare professionals to serve the people of West Virginia,” said Dr. Fisher, director of WVU’s Global Health Program.

During the months of January and February 2018, School of Medicine faculty members Maggie Jaynes, M.D., Troy Krupica, M.D.;, Maria Merzouk, D.O., and Josephine Reece, M.D., led a trip to Guatemala, with residents Christopher Dionne, M.D., and Devan Makati, M.D. Five medical students – Sonya Inderbitzin-Brooks, Morgan Johnson, Abigail Kerns, Kurt Suter, and Logan Wolford – also participated.

The medical residents provided education about diabetes and asthma to the promotoras, or lay community members, from the communities served by the mission. The patients learned how to use glucometers.

The travel experience to Guatemala working in a rural health setting abroad helped fourth-year medical student, Kurt Suter, gain a new perspective on life and medicine. “This trip helped me learn what type of physician I will be,” Kurt said. “I know that I will be a more compassionate, kind and thoughtful physician for having gone on this trip.”

Logan Wolford added, "When you decide to do a rotation internationally, you are not only deciding to further your medical knowledge, but you are deciding that you will consciously engage culture, learn in different environments and expand your confidence in yourself and others."

Guatemala rotation-From left to right: Logan Wolford, Maria Merzouk, Abigail Kerns, Morgan Johnson, Sonya Inderbitzin-Brooks, Kurt Suter, and Josephine Reece.

Also, during the month of February, medical students Dylan Carroll, Brandon Lucke-Wold and Belen Pappa traveled to Oman, a rotation facilitated by Christopher Martin, M.D., M.Sc., director of the WVU Health Sciences Global Engagement Office.

Fourth-year medical student, Brandon Lucke-Wold, noted that his neurosurgical rotation experience in Oman allowed him to experience medicine in a way that would not have been accessible in the United States. “I gained an appreciation for the value of culture in influencing health and recovery,” he said. “I will utilize the lessons learned to provide better care for the patients I treat as a neurosurgeon throughout my career.”

Oman rotation-From left to right: Brandon Lucke-Wold, Dylan Carroll, and Belen Pappa.

The Rwanda rotation was supervised by David Baltierra, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at WVU’s Eastern Campus, with third year Family Medicine resident Tembele Yangandawele, M.D.

“We trained a group of 10 doctors, nurses, midwives, and surgical techs in early infant male circumcision (EIMC) for HIV prevention in Shyira District Hospital,” Dr. Baltierra said. “Additionally, we provided care and consultation for mental health patients and gained better understanding of Rwanda health system.”

For more information about global health rotations for health professions students, contact Jacque Visyak, assistant for the Global Health Program, at jvisyak@hsc.wvu.edu, or Dr. Fisher at mfisher@hsc.wvu.edu.