AIGHD students learn from peers to better prepare for unique, learning abroad course

Learn from the past to plan for the future.

That’s exactly what 10 second-year Bachelor of Medicine students did this week.

The future physicians met with a group of their peers who were the first cohort of the Global Health in Context: Sri Lanka elective course last year. The students were selected to participate in the course this coming June, which includes spending four weeks in Sri Lanka to gain a better understanding of a different health care system.

While students were initially shy, the group quickly warmed up to one another and began sharing their experiences.

For the students heading to Sri Lanka, they shared their ambitions, including the opportunity to experience a new culture, learn from one another and gain insight into the differences in health care systems.

“I chose this course because I have an interest in global health problems and find it exciting to study in an international environment. I’m most looking forward to working with the American and Sri Lankan students,” said 2019 student Ewout Buist.

The expectations were met with understanding and excitement from their peers, who recalled their own experiences from the year prior and how the course impacted their overall studies.

“I see things in the bigger picture now and I noticed when I was writing my thesis, I was thinking in global health terms,” said one Dutch student.

“I was also surprised how much I Iearned just from the other students – about how they think about health care, their approach to problems and their ideas for projects,” added another.

After the formal discussion, the students broke into smaller groups and continued their discussion and enthusiasm over dinner, which was held at the AIGHD office.

“The student event was a great way to get to know what we could expect from this course and I enjoyed seeing how close the teachers from both the USA and Sri Lanka have become with the students participating last year,” added Ewout.

The open dialogue, excitement and knowledge exchange between the two student groups was exactly what the course leadership had hoped for.

“As faculty leaders, we can share with students what they can expect from the course but having the students who have already gone through the course speak to other students peer-to-peer is more powerful,” said AIGHD’s education coordinator dr. Guus ten Asbroek, who co-created the course with faculty leaders from Duke University and the University of Ruhuna.

Unique Collaboration

The course is a unique, learning abroad collaboration between the three universities: AMC; Duke University in North Carolina; and the University of Ruhuna in Sri Lanka.

Students from the three universities are paired together for the course, all with the goal of expanding their global health perspective.

“Even though Sri Lanka is a low-resource setting with a low health care expenditure, we have very good health indicators and this course allows the students to learn about our system and how we’ve been able to achieve those things with very little resources,” said University of Ruhuna Prof. Vijitha De Silva, who visited Amsterdam for the first time for the planning meeting.

The inaugural course took place last year and thanks to its success, will be an ongoing offering as part of the Bachelor of Medicine program. Costs associated with the 10 local Netherlands students have been generously subsidized through a bursary from the AMC Foundation for both the 2018 and 2019 cohorts.

Finalizing the course details

The meet and greet with students was part of a four-day meeting between the course co-creators including Guus, Duke Global Health Institute Laura Bey and prof. Truls Østbye and University of Ruhuna prof. Vijitha De Silva. It was the first time the leaders had met face-to-face since June.

“To be able to see where Guus works, meet his colleagues and see culturally where he’s from helps us all get a better glimpse into the background of the 10 Dutch students who are going to join us,” said DGHI deputy director for curricular and student affairs Laura Bey. “Being able to better understand another culture, listen carefully to others, and look at another culture beyond your usual biases is a large part of what I hope students get out of this experience.”