Partners in Caring
Partners in Caring:A Medical Service-Learning Exchange
Dr. Nancy Rice, an assistant professor in WKU’s Department of Biology, works in collaboration with the University of Nairobi on a project called “Partners in Caring: a Medical Service-Learning Exchange between Kenya and Kentucky.” “We have a large number of pre-professional students in pre-medicine and pre-dental and this program is designed with them in mind to get service learning,” Dr. Rice said.
The program’s objective is to develop a partnership among WKU pre-medical students, local physicians, University of Nairobi medical students and Kenyan physicians in order to enhance health in the Kasigau region of Kenya. The course is taught with the support of Dr. Michael Collins and Dr. Richard Clouse, both family practitioners, and Dr. Kelly Kries, a pediatrician.
“Students, though participation in rural medical clinics, led by our partnering physicians, gain an appreciation of Kenyan culture and medicine and learn about the epidemiological challenges facing a third-world country while having a substantive, engaged international learning experience,” Dr. Rice said. “It is a unique opportunity for our students,”
Dr. Rice, Dr. Collins and Dr. Clouse visited Kenya to perform a needs assessment of the Kasigau area. The group did surveys to get basic information and history of the villages and determine their health needs. These include childbirth education, HIV education, proper use of medications and use of mosquito nets to prevent malaria. Residents of the region are poor and have no electricity or water. Access to medical facilities is limited to just three communities in the region. And those facilities are “very primitive,” Dr. Clouse said. “They’ve made use of what they have.”
“Our goal isn’t to go in and change their culture; we also want to foster concern among the Nairobi students for their own people,” Dr. Rice said. “There is such poverty that if you make it to medical school you face a difficult choice in going back to an impoverished area.” The program also will include opportunities for Kenyan students and physicians to visit WKU and the Bowling Green region.
The selection process for students is intensive because they have to be prepared for the living conditions in the rural region, Dr. Rice said. “It’s a life-changing experience,” she said. Once selected, the students complete a seminar course in the spring on Kenyan culture, herbal medicine and health care in the Third World and receive basic medical skills training from the partner physicians. In the summer, the medical group travels to Kenya along with WKU’s biodiversity group. Once the program is established, the goal is to make trips every six months during summer and winter terms.