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. Many 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 residents traveled to Brazil, Fiji, Ghana, Paraguay, India, and Italy. Each global health rotation lasted 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 March and April 2018, School of Medicine faculty members Josephine Reece, M.D., Maria Kolar, M.D., Jenna Sizemore, M.D. and clinical faculty member Rebecca Reece, M.D. led a trip to Ghana with residents Evan Fogha, M.D. and Benjamin Moser, M.D. Four medical students – Morgan Johnson, Phillip Pifer, Adrienne Schmidt, and Logan Wolford– also participated.

For fourth year medical student Logan Wolford, serving in a developing country not only changed his perspective, but also made him realize why he decided to go into the medical field in the first place. “Our experience in Nalerigu, Ghana was that of medicine, culture and a beautiful people,” Logan said. “All three were integral components of almost every patient encounter. Perhaps, serving in a developing country with such profound need is one of the best ways to expand cultural competence and truly understand just how important it can be in proper patient care.”

Ghana rotation: Logan Wolford, Benjamin Moser, and Phillip Pifer

The Fiji rotation was supervised by faculty members Katie Hill, M.D. and clinical faculty member Monica Speicher M.D. with resident Mandeep Dhilon, M.D. and three medical students Sherif Ibrahim, Jennifer Knapp, and Iqra Sheikh.

“One of my favorite memories of this rotation was our trip to Naceva village,” Iqra said. “We spent half the day doing well child visits at the school and the second half taking care of the rest of the village. At night, the chief and local villagers organized a ceremony and singing program for all of us at their local community hall. Dressed in Fijian clothing, we enjoyed listening and dancing to traditional music that the village had prepared for us!”

Fiji rotation: Dr. Mandeep Dhilon and Dr. Katie Hill with Jennifer Knapp, Iqra Sheikh, and Sherif Ibrahim 

Also during the months of March and April, a rotation was led by faculty member Alfred Gest, M.D. who traveled to Italy with two medical students Audra Kelly and Breanna Nolan.

Fourth year medical student Breanna Nolan noted that she couldn’t help but to notice the striking similarities of healthcare in San Giovanni and the surrounding areas to that in West Virginia. “Learning about the National Health Service in Italy was a favorite part of this rotation,” Breanna said. “I think that there is so much we can learn from exchanging information with other countries. As we discussed the system used in Italy, I realized how little I actually knew about our own healthcare system in America. It inspired me to do research and become more informed before I begin residency. I want to be as knowledgeable as possible and be able to advocate for my patients as well as have intelligent conversations with other physicians.”

Italy rotation: Dr. Alfred Gest, Breanna Nolan, Audra Kelly, and Dr. Paolo Audia

Additionally, the spring semester included three other rotations to Brazil with medical students Taylor Bush, Samuel Richardson, and Sidney Sisson, a rotation to India led by faculty member Josephine Reece, M.D. with medicine resident Varun Badami, M.D., and another rotation to Paraguay with students Derek Deshaies and Brandon Lucke-Wold.

“The Paraguay experience was an excellent learning environment,” said Brandon. “I got to participate in great Neurosurgery cases, take an active part in patient care, and learn more about a fascinating culture. I have developed lifelong friends and will continue collaboration for years to come. Overall it was such a wonderful experience.”

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.