International Experiences of Duluth Medical Students

Photo Essays on Display in UMD's Medical School

University of Minnesota Medical School - Duluth Campus students who traveled worldwide to experience healthcare in different countries last summer are launching a discussion of their experiences through a series of unique photo essays. Amanda Noska, second year student, is kicking off the series with an exhibit of her photographic essay, "Cuba," at the medical school building on the Duluth campus of UMD from January 22 to January 30. Composed of 15 photograph storyboards, Noska's exhibit is located in the medical school's atrium. Photos on this web page are from Noska's exhibit.

"My four-week experience in Cuba was rich, challenging and educational. It has left a deep impression on me, has changed my views on the country and people of Cuba itself, and has enhanced my understanding of the nature of quality medicine," Noska said. Expanding on how her views of the country had changed, she added, "The resources Cubans have to work with, the educational status, health, and overall well-being of the people were much different than I expected."

Noska and 18 other Duluth campus medical students participated in international experiences last summer with Medical Education through Diversity and Service (MEDS). MEDS is a student-run organization that provides opportunities for students to experience healthcare in other countries. Participants increase their cultural awareness by observing and getting involved in community service and medical relief organizations domestically and internationally. In addition to Noska's trip to Cuba, seven students went to Peru, three to Brazil, four to the Marshall Islands, one each to Chile and Honduras, and two to Guatemala.

Started in 2002 on the Duluth campus of the Medical School, MEDS typically sends one-third to one-half of the Duluth campus' first year class on international summer experiences. Students have visited North and Sound America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. In nearly all cases, visits were made to developing countries. "The MEDS experience is designed to enhance these students' medical understanding and their ability to adapt to culturally and financially-diverse patient populations. They learn some important universal truths, namely that people are different and need to be treated with cultural sensitivity whether they are in rural Minnesota or in a developing country," commented Gary Davis, Ph.D., interim senior associate dean.

Students play an active role in planning their travel, which is a learning experience in itself, preparing them to independently plan similar experiences later in their medical education or medical careers. The pre-visit planning and international experiences are shared among all students making it a program which reaches, in some way, every student on the Duluth campus.

Inspiration for sharing the students' international experiences originated with MEDS' faculty advisor Glenn Nordehn, D.O. and Fred Hafferty, Ph.D. of the Department of Family Medicine, Duluth campus, who created a teaching and workshop format, Images and Cultures. The format is designed to encourage discussion of experiences with visual imagery, such as photographs, as the focal point. Fifteen photographs of her experience in Cuba make up Noska's presentation.

Images and Cultures is planning additional displays of the international experiences of the medical students. A future exhibit will show photographs related to the community of Hmong immigrants to Minnesota.

The mission of the University of Minnesota Medical School - Duluth Campus is to educate students who will practice family medicine and other primary care specialties in rural Minnesota and American Indian communities; to provide high-quality academic and clinical education programs for professional, graduate and undergraduate students, and to create distinguished research programs in health sciences. Located on the UMD campus, the University of Minnesota Medical School - Duluth Campus is a branch of the University of Minnesota Medical School, based in the Twin Cities.

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