Academic Partnerships – Bonus for Both of Us!

June 9, 2016

By, Dr. Mark Humphrey, University of South Carolina School of Medicine

“Jill” just shared with our forty member medical team how treating Nicaraguan patients this week had re-energized her passion for being a physician. Being an intern-resident and other life circumstances had been rough over the prior year, but her work with OneWorld Health had made a difference, in her life and those she served. Listening to learners’ stories and seeing them light up when experiencing a new culture are a few of the bonuses I get as a family medicine clinical faculty member leading medical teams to Nicaragua with OneWorld Health.

The University of South Carolina’s Department of Family and Preventive Medicine has partnered with OneWorld Health since 2013. In each year of our department’s partnership with OneWorld Health, learner activities have increased and mutual goals have expanded.  In the beginning, OneWorld Health served as the international partner for our global health primary care elective offered to fourth year medical students and resident physicians. Our partnership has grown to include providing local continuing medical education, community health surveys and an international site for our new primary care Global Health Fellowship. This partnership is possible because we share a similar vision, providing strong primary care to communities in need in a sustainable and affordable fashion. This is our part toward the WHO Sustainable Development Goals.

Our work initially started by providing the core medical provider component for one of OneWorld Health’s quarterly medical mission teams in Nicaragua. Our resident physicians and medical students became the primary care physicians, serving patients in the neighborhoods surrounding a new clinic in El Viejo, Nicaragua. We set up stations and used the US medical education model of learners seeing patients and then discussing each patient with an attending physician who also assessed the patient. This model has expanded in each of the three trips we have partnered with OneWorld Health. In the second year we included South Carolina College of Pharmacy students and in the third year included University of South Carolina nursing students. Each time we used the US teaching model of having learners be directly involved in a patient’s care while being supervised. Thus far the partnership has seen 17 medical students, eight resident physicians, seven pharmacy students and ten nursing students participate resulting in touching 3,000 patient’s lives. Patients like “Edwardo,” who came to us because of his continued joint pains from Chikungunya.

Beyond providing care to the communities where OneWorld Health has established permanent clinics, developing relationships with local Nicaraguan health care providers and community leaders has been key to OneWorld Health’s success in Nicaragua. A second goal of the global health faculty in the Family and Preventive Medicine Department is to help support those relationships developed by OneWorld Health. Thus far this has included a hypertension education session for physicians and nurses as well as two separate community health needs assessments in Sebaco and Tola, communities where future permanent clinics were planned. These surveys gave our students the opportunity to better understand the culture and lifestyle that contribute to the health of the people we served. Secondly, it provided OneWorld Health with local community data, not available through other means, about the people they sought to help through their new clinics.

The future is bright for this partnership. Next steps include having our department’s Global Health Fellow spend six months of the two-year fellowship with OneWorld Health in Nicaragua. The fellow will use the skills developed as a family medicine physician as well as tools learned during our fellowship, including ultrasound, population health and other topics gained while achieving a Masters of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. They will be partnering with OneWorld Health’s regional director, TJ McCloud, to focus on key local needs including patient care, local provider education and quality improvement projects. All at the same time seeing how international organizations function.

As a physician, my goal is to improve the health of the world I live in. I love that I can do that by providing care to my personal patients, and the patients my residents and medical student see in Columbia, South Carolina. But it is awesome to know the blessing goes on when the students and residents graduate, providing care to multiple communities across the United States. My partnership with OneWorld Health allows me to extend my passion even further, to the world, while at the same time teaching others to do the same.

Dr. Humphrey has an MD and MPH and is an Assistant Professor and Assistant Global Health Director for the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. 

Photo by Kristine Wager for OneWorld Health

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