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AHC students in Guatemala during Jterm

Traveling can open our minds and expose the artificiality of our human-imposed borders. And when travel includes multi-disciplinary approaches to education, our perspectives widen further. Just ask students and faculty within URI’s Academic Health Collaborative.

“It’s eye opening and adds an element to education that you don’t get from reading articles or taking courses,” said physical therapy student Alison O’Brien, who participated in a global health program in Guatemala in January.

About 75 undergraduate and graduate students and several faculty members from the Collaborative’s colleges—Health Sciences, Nursing, and Pharmacy—studied in Guatemala, Indonesia, Hawaii, and Jamaica during J-Term. Students earned independent study or course credit in physical therapy, kinesiology, pharmacy, health studies, or nursing.

“It was great to not just be thinking about medications, but to focus on people, their culture, how they live, and how that affects their health.”

“We’re working toward collaboration on international experiences that brings a uniform approach to interprofessional education and meets each discipline’s objectives for graduation,” said Michelle Palmer, assistant clinical professor of nursing, who led a trip to Indonesia that included pharmacy, health studies, and nursing students and focused on global health.

Her group joined J-Term students studying biodiversity in Indonesia through the College of the Environment and Life Sciences. Palmer’s group examined social determinants—poverty, culture, geography—that are shortening the lives of local miners while the other students focused on geological aspects.

Associate Professor Janice Hulme and Assistant Professor Jennifer Audette, both of the Department of Physical Therapy, led the Guatemala trip, which included immersive learning at hospitals, pharmacies, and clinics for people with disabilities.

“It was great to not just be thinking about medications, but to focus on people, their culture, how they live, and how that affects their health,” said Elizabeth Alberg, a fourth-year Pharm.D. student who participated in the Guatemala trip.

In Oahu, Hawaii, students participated in exercise physiology studies, providing surfing therapy for adults with disabilities and ocean enrichment experiences with underprivileged children. They also attended lectures and collected and analyzed health data.

The visit to Jamaican orphanages led by Christine McGrane, assistant professor of clinical nursing instruction, was part of an ongoing volunteer effort started by pharmacy students that included nursing and physical therapy students. They worked with children with disabilities and saw the impacts of poverty and scant resources. The trip served as a scouting exercise for a potentially new J-Term trip, McGrane said.

Audette also envisions additional travel programs that build on the groundwork laid this year, and hopes to offer learning opportunities for students from an increasing number of majors.

Pictured: AHC students who participated in the J-Term global health trip to Guatemala. 

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