Part of our program's vision relates to educating our students to appreciate a greater role that they play in the health care arena of the nation and the world. This vision has led us to place emphasis on global health education. One unique offering at Wake Forest is an opportunity for interested students to earn a certificate in global health education. This optional program involves special didactic seminars, clinical work, and a capstone project focused on global health. Conducted in concert with the student's nurse anesthesia curriculum, the global health certificate program adds an additional focus on unique issues in diverse health settings. Upon completion of the 2-year program, students are awarded a certificate in global health by the Wake Forest School of Medicine.
Our global health clinical experience program began in 2006, when we began forming relationships with international mission providers to facilitate student and faculty involvement on international medical missions.The opportunity to provide anesthesia in a third-world country using primitive monitoring techniques and medications is an experience that cannot be duplicated in the United States. These experiences provide students not only with the opportunity to learn unusual clinical techniques, but also to learn about alternate health systems and how to overcome system challenges in those environments.
Terri Accardo was our first student to participate in 2006, and she received an invaluable experience providing anesthesia for adults and pediatric patients in the Dominican Republic, using basic drugs and techniques.
In 2007, our relationship with Solid Rock as well as smaller mission providers afforded international opportunities to students Shira Friend, Kimberly Gordon, Greg Aaron, and instructor Steve Alday. In 2008, Rebekah Cummings, Scott Imus, and Alicia Sechrist participated in trips to the Dominican Republic. The program continues to expand yearly. Among the class of 2011, two-thirds of the class, (14 students pictured below) participated in international health work in the Dominican Republic and three African countries.
Besides the clinical experience, the opportunity also provides an uplifting sense of philanthropy for the providers and leads to formation of strong bonds with domestic and foreign teammates.
Here's what a mission coordinator said about one of the student participants:
"I would like to thank you for allowing Alicia go with us our mission trip this year. She was an excellent asset. Although our circumstances were quite different from what she was used to, it did not take her long to adapt. She gained the respect of the other members of the medical and surgical teams. One case in particular when the surgeon extubated the patient while doing a tonsillectomy, Alicia recognized it right away and took control of the situation. She made the surgeon stop operating and get out of her way so that she could secure the airway. Only then would she let him continue operating. She was very cool and calm in a critical situation that could have quickly turned into a tragic situation had she not recognized the problem.
I hope this experience was as beneficial for Alicia as it was for the rest of the mission team and the patients in the Dominican Republic, and I hope she will consider going with us again in the future. She has a very positive attitude and I feel that Alicia will make an excellent CRNA. Once again, thanks for allowing her to go with us on our mission trip."
The mission trips are life-changing for many student participants. Read what this one said about her experience in 2009:
"The trip was absolutely amazing and life changing. The Haitian people are a wonderful people. I definitely plan to return! We performed over 25 surgeries, from 4 months in age to 71 years of age (very elderly for a Haitian as avg life expectancy is 51). One child that we performed surgery for was an 8 yr old boy with an extremely rare autosomal recessive disorder called Juvenile Hyaline Fibromatosis. There are only about 70 people worldwide diagnosed with this disorder.
I can't thank you enough for making our program so open and encouraging to students taking mission trips. I wish students at all anesthesia schools had this opportunity, but I am aware that this is not the case. My hope is that I have built a bridge with this surgical team that future students will be able to cross and have amazing experiences like my own."
Another mission participant from 2009 wrote this:
"The trip was great. I am so glad that I went and would encourage other students to go. We both had many people ask us if Wake students can come on more trips because we were the "best" they have had. Both of the surgeons wanted to take us back to their hospitals in Tennessee, and the anesthesiologist offered us both a job in Nashville. I am grateful for the great preparation and training we get here and was proud that we were able to represent the program well."
Among the class of 2010, five students participated in international missions with various groups. A recent participant wrote: "This was a wonderful experience and I am so thankful I was given the opportunity to go. We were given massive amounts of autonomy and this was the best experience I have had since I started the program!"
Among the Class of 2011, fourteen students traveled to the Dominican Republic, Rwanda, and Mawandi to work with various organizations to gain experience in global health. These opportunities for students increase yearly, and the students grow personally and professionally from their experiences. One participant, Kathryn Phares, remarked, “I have gotten to use halothane quite a bit, with hand ventilation for over six hours at a time. We are helping a lot of women that are so deserving and hopefully making ‘life changing’ progress in their lives. They are so humble and so grateful.” Congratulations to her and all of our students as they make a difference in service to others.
The number of international opportunities grows continuously, as our alliances with various mission organizations grow.
Since 2009, when our program was intimately involved with the development of a nurse anesthesia school in Ghana, students have had the opportunity to travel there to become involved with the anesthesia education. Interacting with the Ghanaian students provides a unique experience and different focus than the typical medical mission.