July 15, 2011
by Judy Haw
Tuberculosis. Mapping malaria. Parasitic infections. Poison and venom. Global inequality and health. HIV. Malaria vaccines.
While I am far removed from being a pre-med student, I still find these topics exciting and fascinating. I suppose this is one reason I was asked to coordinate the USC Dornsife’s Problems Without Passports BISC 499 Global Medicine course when Dr. Kenneth Geller discovered he would be unable to make the trip. This course is being taught at Oxford University over a three-week period starting on July 18. I must admit, that while I did jump at the chance to return to the United Kingdom, I found myself more excited about being a part of the experience that the students will encounter.
Although the application process got a bit of a late start in the spring, the course was filled with 13 students who will make up the first cohort to engage in this important and timely topic. The USC participants are truly a diverse group that includes sophomores to seniors and biology to business majors. Many of the students will be making a repeat trip to Europe and/or the UK. For some, this will be their first time out of the United States. But all of the students share a common goal of wanting to attend medical school someday. Each one is at a different point on this path with some students having just completed the general chemistry course while other just completed the MCAT exam a few days prior to their departure for England.
Several of the students will begin this adventure early as they will fly to mainland Europe and spend time exploring some of those countries prior to meeting up with the rest of the group in London. Our group will be complete on Sunday, July 17 as we board a train from London to Oxford. Although we had a couple of get-togethers in the spring, this train ride will mark the first time all 14 of us will actually be together. I am, however, confident that these students will quickly bond and will find themselves close friends by the end of the course.
Oxford University faculty and physicians will teach the course. The students will typically hear two lectures each morning and then will work on their research project each afternoon. The student’s research will focus on a global health issue/problem from several different perspectives to better understand the humanitarian, economic and political impact it could have the affected country. They will also examine how their problem could also cause a number of worldwide consequences.
Additionally, one day the students will travel to London to visit medically related exhibits at the British Museum, the Wellcome Collection, the Hunterian Museum and Guy’s Hospital. Another day will be spent traveling to Gloucestershire to tour Dr. Edward Jenner’s House to learn about the birth of the practice of vaccination.
My hope for the students is that this experience will not only affect the way these students think about medicine but that it will actually alter how they will eventually study and practice this art.
Judy Haw is director of the USC Dornsife Supplemental Instruction program. She is also the associate director of the Freshman Science Honors Program.