Every spring, third-year students have the opportunity to travel to global locations to provide clinical or teaching services to meet international partners’ needs. Students expand their appreciation of different cultures and implications of working in different health systems.
The University of Florida traveled to Nicaragua providing continuing education courses for the Univerisdad de Autonoma de Nicaragua from 2003 to 2018 educating faculty and clinicians throughout the country.
In 2019, students and faculty joined the well-established University of Florida College of Medicine (COM) Project Yucatan to provide care in the rural areas outside of Mérida in the Yucatán Peninsula in southeastern Mexico.
Project Yucatan has partnered with students from the Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan (UADY) community volunteer group, similar to the Equal Access Clinic, to organize interprofessional clinical services in the rural areas outside of Mérida.
The group of UF and UADY volunteers – including physical therapy, pharmacy, physician assistant and medical students, and licensed provider mentors – provide care in an interprofessional outdoor clinic setting for patients of all ages. Faculty mentors provide oversight of clinical care along with providing demonstrations and feedback for debriefing sessions. UF and UADY students participate in discussions, demonstrations and practice sessions for skill building prior to the clinic.
While overseas, the students have the opportunity to not only fine tune clinical skills, but also to improve their Spanish and communication skills, and gain cultural awareness and respect for diversity within this field. They have the opportunity to learn more about students in other professions from UADY, and the delivery of care in a different health care environment.
The select group of UF DPT students who travel take on leadership roles, such as facilitating communication between all participants, collecting equipment, creating and translating handouts and clinic protocols into Spanish, and serving as clinic coordinators for physical therapy services.
Of importance, there are opportunities to observe and communicate with other health care professionals for optimal patient care in an immersive and dynamic setting. Overall, the inter-professional Global Outreach Project leaves a lasting impact on both the clinical practice in under served communities and the mindset of the students returning to the states, essentially changing lives through service.