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Students learn how Botswanan healthcare providers
do more with less

Rochelle Rennie, OMS-II, takes part in a service learning project at
Camphill, a school for disabled children in Botswana.
(ATHENS, Ohio — July 29, 2014) Five Heritage College students joined with 11 other Ohio University students in the fields of nursing, pre-medicine and communication last month to pursue a variety of learning and research initiatives relating to public health in the African nation of Botswana.

These 16 students were part of the Botswana Healthcare Program, under the auspices of (and with funding from) the Global Health Initiative, a joint program of the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Ohio University College of Health Sciences and Professions. The group was led by GHI Director Gillian Ice, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor of social medicine at the Heritage College, and Eliza Harper, M.S.N., R.N., assistant professor at the Ohio University School of Nursing, who acted as a clinical supervisor.

Heritage College Executive Dean Kenneth H. Johnson, D.O., F.A.A.O., praised the program as an expression of the college’s worldwide reach.

“I think we can all be proud of the connection that the Heritage College, Health Sciences and Professions, and Ohio University have with the global community, especially on the African continent,” Johnson said. “That trip must have been such an enriching and rewarding experience for the students who took part!”

During the three- week program, medical, pre-med and nursing students shadowed healthcare professionals in both public and private hospitals in Botswana and took part in service learning projects. They also heard a series of lectures by local experts on health and healthcare in Botswana, including an overview of Botswana’s interventions to combat HIV/AIDS.

During their first two weeks in Botswana, students worked on the medical, orthopedic, surgery and pediatric wards of Princess Marina Hospital and at the Baylor Center of Excellence, a pediatric AIDS clinic.

Although Ice said some students were initially a bit overwhelmed, they had opportunities to increase their clinical skills in ways they had never expected. “Some had very little clinical experience – others were shocked at the differences in care, equipment and facilities,” she said. “They have all been impressed with the way the providers here deliver care with few resources, conserving instead of wasting and improvising when needed.”

In addition to students in health-related fields, two graduate communications students in the group conducted research under the direction of Caroline Kingori, Ph.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor in Ohio University’s Department of Social and Public Health, and Joseph Bianco, Ph.D., an assistant professor of social medicine at the Heritage College. This project is funded by GHI’s Research and Scholarly Award. Their pilot study will look at how gender-based violence, trauma and other psycho-social issues affect public health.

Bianco explained that the students, Nihal Said and Kazi Priyanki Silmi, interviewed service providers at Stepping Stones International, a service agency, and their community partners who provide social and psychological services to orphaned children and adolescents, most orphaned when their parents died of HIV/AIDS.

The country also suffers from a high incidence of sexual violence, Bianco said, and many of the orphaned children may have undergone serious trauma in their lives. The researchers examined how care providers in Botswana try to help such children, and why their efforts to raise awareness of the plight of these orphans often fall short of expectations.

Kingori’s research primarily focuses on HIV/AIDS in Kenya and among immigrants and refugees in the United States, while Bianco’s research interests include “the impact psychological trauma on health.” Ideally, he said, the research project pursued by the team will give them insight into cross-cultural viewpoints.

Now in its second year, the Botswana Healthcare Program builds on an existing relationship among Ohio University, Botswana’s Ministry of Health, and the country’s Institute of Health Sciences. Currently, the School of Nursing and GHI are working with Botswana’s IHS to upgrade its nursing curriculum from a diploma to a degree program. Each student in the Botswana Healthcare Program contributed to this effort by carrying 70 pounds of nursing books, which were added to the IHS library.

In addition to clinical activities, students spent weekends participating in cultural activities in Botswana before returning on June 27.

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Last updated: 01/28/2016