Every year, fourth year MSIH students partake in eight-week global health clerkships, where they utilize all they have learned in real-world, resource-scarce settings. They are able to gain hands on experience in different cultural settings. Additionally, they learn how physicians and medical practitioners in different cultures promote health and quality care, oftentimes despite limited resources.
This year, given Covid travel restrictions, MSIH students completed their global health clerkships at hospitals and clinics in Israel, including a clinic serving the Bedouin community, Nazareth Hospital and a clinic in the Golan Heights serving the Druze community of Majdal Shams.
As part of these clerkships, MSIH students prepare clinical case reports, weekly blogs based on their observations, and a final presentation that is shared with their professors and peers. The case studies, blogs and insights they share show how invaluable these experiences are.
This year’s Global Health Roundup included guest speaker, Gal Yoffe, who specializes in managing humanitarian operations and the deployment of teams in the field. He spoke about how the effects of a good physician or healthcare provider go beyond just health. Oftentimes, the effects are related to “reason, respect and dignity.”
Following his presentation, students presented various case studies and provided reflections on their experiences. The group of students who completed their clerkships in the Bedouin clinic talked about approaching things with an open mind rather than assuming there is a “typical Bedouin patient.” They also noted how any degree of common language goes a long way. MSIH student Ron Zahavi added that “making the effort at least to try shows an authenticity of character, a genuine approach.”
Another group of students completed their clerkship at Nazareth Hospital, which serves local towns and villages that are home to 46% of Israel’s Arab population. This group of students talked about prioritizing cultural respect without compromising the need to provide top quality care. MSIH student Nisi Goldstein, reflected on how the global health curriculum at MSIH is unique “because it is not just about learning from other cultures and communities via PowerPoint presentations in the comforts of our home countries. Rather, it is about entirely immersing ourselves in those cultures, it is about listening and experiencing up close, one on one, looking into the eyes of another whose name we have trouble pronouncing.”
The final group completed their clerkships at a clinic in Majdal Shams, a Druze town in the southern foothills of Mount Hermon, north of the Golan Heights, where the majority of residents are of Syrian-Druze origin. Given that the nearest hospital is over an hour away, patients in the clinic presented with a breadth of broad pathology. This group of students noted the close-knit families and community in Majdal Shams, which was helpful when patients needed support or care at home.
These experiences highlight the importance of understanding and addressing the impact of socioeconomic factors on the health of individuals. Clinical exposure in diverse communities enables medical students to gain real world cross-cultural medical experience.