IU Medical Students Aim To Make A Difference

The World Health Organization says health care workers’ willingness to practice in underserved areas, such as rural, remote or poor regions, is a major challenge in achieving equitable access to health care.

The Indiana University School of Medicine says some of its students are, indeed, willing and now will be even better equipped to work in the most remote regions of the world. IUSM-South Bend and the University of Notre Dame’s Eck Institute for Global Health are launching a dual degree program that allows IU medical students to earn a master’s degree in global health alongside their medical degree. The result, they believe, will be doctors uniquely prepared to be “difference-makers” in parts of the world where they’re needed most.

“There’s a big need for more physicians in global health,” says Dr. Rudy Navari, associate dean and director of IUSM-South Bend. “In the U.S., we’re focused on our own needs locally, regionally and nationally, but from a world health point of view, there’s a huge need for well-trained people to go into these various areas and contribute significantly to third world medicine.”

The new dual degree program for medical students expands on many years of collaboration between the two schools, including shared research projects, adjunct professor appointments and the new Harper Cancer Research Institute.

The program will enable IUSM students at any of the regional campuses to earn the master’s in global health by adding just one year to the four-year medical degree program and is designed for those who want to practice medicine in underserved areas.

“The [medical students] will be much better equipped after having done the master’s at Eck to make a contribution and decide what their major area of interest is,” says Navari. “I think they’ll be highly sought after by various organizations because of the master’s and medical degree; you have an individual who has a robust background in clinical medicine, as well as some strong academic background in various areas of global health.”

Notre Dame’s global health master’s program is fairly new itself, launched just two years ago, but with greater response than expected, enrolling about 20 students each year. Notre Dame’s College of Science Dean Greg Crawford believes the dual degree is unique, because medical students can earn a master’s in global health, rather than the more common master’s in public health. Additionally, Crawford says this is the only program in the country that offers the master’s in an inter-institutional setting, rather than coming from a single university.

“It allows us to get some very skilled and enthusiastic students who are passionate about medicine and health care into our [global health] program,” says Crawford. “It balances out our class and gives us a different type of student in our class; there’s a lot of collaborative work and group projects in the program, and it brings a whole new perspective in since these are medical school students.”

The students will take a leave of absence during their third year of medical school to spend 12 months at the Eck Institute to earn the master’s in global health. During that time, they’ll travel to the front lines of an underserved area during a six to eight week hands-on international experience; the two universities have ongoing projects in many areas, including Haiti, Uganda and Kenya.

“These [medical] students who are interested in global health are primarily interested in service; I think that’s what their career goals are,” says Navari. “We thought it’d be nice if the med students who are interested in this had some formal education in this area, so when they do go off to a third world country, they really would have something very real to offer.”

The program is expecting a handful of medical students to begin the dual degree on Notre Dame’s campus when it’s formally launched in the upcoming fall semester—giving future doctors a deeper perspective on providing health care around the globe.

“This continues the great collaborative spirit between IUSM-South Bend and Notre Dame,” says Crawford. “And when these students graduate, they can take off with all this global health expertise and change the world.”

Source: Inside INdiana Business

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