Students and faculty return from a learning experience in Africa like no other
Thirteen students and faculty from the University of New England recently returned from a highly rewarding educational experience in Africa, part of the Ghana Health Immersion program.
The team included four Nursing students, two Public Health students, two Pharmacy students and one Social Work student. The UNE team joined 10 health professionals from the University of Cape Coast and the Effia Nkwanta Regional Hospital, as well as 20 community health outreach workers from the local twin city communities of Sekondi and Takoradi in Ghana.
The Ghana Health Immersion program has been led by Jennifer Morton, D.N.P., M.P.H., PHNA-B.C., director of nursing and associate professor in the UNE Department of Nursing, since 2008.
“It’s about an exchange of learning,” says Morton. “We’re learning more from them than we’re providing.”
The partners collaborate on activities such as public health practice/research, clinical care and shared teaching activities.
This year the team treated nearly 500 patients in three communities. The most common conditions seen in the clinic include infectious diseases such as malaria, schistosomiasis, typhoid, localized bacterial infections and non-communicable chronic diseases.
Students and faculty report year after year that the experience is life changing, both personally and professionally.
“I’ve been searching for the right words to describe the twelve days, but I remain speechless,” says Kianna DiBiase (COP, ’19). “The cultural experiences, the health care differences, and the disease states that I witnessed were beyond anything I will ever see here. Although the trip had its challenges, it helped shape me into the student I am now.”
Rachel Naida, Pharm.D. '13, assistant clinical professor in the College of Pharmacy, says those challenges include adjusting to a culture that is drastically different than what students are used to.
“It took a lot of flexibility,” says Naida. “I was so impressed with how flexible and willing the students were to jump into any situation.”
Social work also played an important role in the trip. Kelli Fox LCSW, CCS, LADC, assistant clinical professor and director of Field Education and student Alanna Eaton (Social Work, ’18) worked alongside the nursing, pharmacy and public health students and faculty.
“I think the role of the social work student or the social worker is to remind the team that the patient is a human being, a whole person,” Fox said.
Fox and Eaton spent time advocating for patients and surveying them about their experiences.
Molly Orlando (COP, ’19), says the immersion experience is one of the many benefits of attending UNE.
“One of the reasons I came to UNE was because of the emphasis on interprofessional experiences,” says Orlando. “That’s really important to me.”
Students and faculty collected 650 pounds of supplies and equipment to transport to Ghana. Items not used by the end of the experience were donated to Effia Nkwanta Regional Hospital and the University of Cape Coast Hospital.
To apply, visit www.une.edu/admissions