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Health Immersion Course in Brazil gives students first-hand experience about global health

Your bags are packed, your passport and visa obtained, you are ready for your trip to Brazil- a trip of a lifetime! The University of Minnesota School of Nursing is taking it a step further, allowing students to practice what they love through an international study abroad course.

Diana Drake, D.N.P., APRN, WHNP, Clinical Associate Professor, School of Nursing, recently returned from her third trip. The School of Nursing sponsors the trip for their graduate DNP students and Drake, in her role of Specialty Coordinator for the WHNP program and the developer of the trip, formed a partnership with an international study program (SIT) in Salvador, Brazil.

The trip is a 10 day ‘health immersion course,’ plus two additional days for travel.  Drake and her students spent their time in village and urban settings in Salvador, Brazil, on the northeastern coast of the country. Salvador was the country’s entry port for the Portuguese slave trade, and as a result has a highly diverse culture. The course’s focus is on Afro-Brazilian women’s healthcare in the context of environment, race, culture and policy.

“One of the objectives is to increase students’ awareness of the sociocultural, political, and environmental determinants of health on a global scale,” said Drake. “Although obstacles to care and diseases may vary in severity and location, they are essentially universal themes.”

Some of the topics covered in the course include:

·       Slavery and racial dynamics: historical context of health care & current impact on women and health care

·       Alternative healing in the Candomble tradition & island community health services

·       Medical home care visits with health agents and community prevention screening health fairs

·        A women’s HIV clinic and a refuge and health center for female sex workers

Students participating in the study abroad practicum receive 80 clinical hours in women’s health. It is offered to APRN students, including nurse practitioners in women’s health, family medicine, geriatric medicine and nurse-midwives with plans to expand the experience for other specialties. Most of the daily lectures are provided by Brazilian medical providers and faculty from the Federal University of Bahia (Universidade Federal da Bahia).

Student feedback has been very positive, and Drake considers this a successful and useful course for students to expand their health care background, and understand women’s health as a global issue.

“Not only is it highly gratifying as an educator and clinician to see students improving on their cross-cultural communication abilities, enhancing their understanding of sociocultural impacts on health, and gaining an appreciation for unique health care delivery systems, but we are changing the lives of future patients, by providing them with a new generation of exceptional health care providers that have an understanding of women’s health as a global issue,” said Drake.

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