Making an International Impact
IHP students, alumni, and faculty are widening global reach with new programs, immersive global student experiences, and work in communities abroad.
By Kate Chaney
Office of Strategic Communications
November is International Education Month, during which the value and impact of global opportunities for learning are celebrated. International education can encompass a variety of different designs including students taking on immersive learning experiences abroad, alumni using their expertise to catalyze education expansion globally, or an educational institution expanding access to instructional programs.
MGH Institute students, alumni, and faculty are making an impact far and wide, working to break down silos and soften borders between countries, while facilitating global knowledge sharing to strengthen communities.
Here are their stories.
Students in Action
This past summer, Leah Rothchild was the first IHP student to join School of Nursing instructor and clinical lab coordinator Jennifer Duran on her first trip back to Uganda since the pandemic. Rothchild spent two weeks training nurses and nursing students at the Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital, conducting patient assessments, and providing direct patient care.
Rothchild was driven to help patients around the world, leading her to heading out on this international experience.
“Global health has always been a passion of mine,” she shared, noting that her goal is to “one day provide health care on each of the Earth’s seven continents.”
Duran, who organized the program, first went to Uganda in 2018 after a conversation with colleagues in which she shared that she was interested in working in the country in a pediatric oncology capacity. That was the seed that planted this annual adventure.
In Arequipa, Peru, students in the 16-month accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program regularly partake in international clinical study experiences. There, they learn about culture, traditions, and the local community while observing its healthcare system. They also deliver care alongside Peruvian nursing students in clinics, logging the clinical time the ABSN program requires, and integrating their global immersion experience seamlessly into their studies.
Alyssa Savery, SLP ’19, traveled to Belize in her last semester at the IHP to visit The Inspiration Center, a non-governmental organization in the capital of Belize City that provides various therapy and health services to children with disabilities and their families. Bringing along a few of her classmates, Savery was excited about this adventure, as her parents were born in Belize and she was eager to show her peers around a place she cared so much about.
While there, they worked with families, focusing on parent education and resources to be used at home, while evaluating range of motion, strength, eating, and swallowing in the children they met with.
“This trip changed our clinical decision making and allowed us to think deeply about our services as speech-language pathologists as we began our new careers,” Savery noted. “It provided us a unique opportunity to study our privilege and how it affects the people we serve.”
Alumni Giving Back
Sophie Bellenis, OTD ‘17, moved to Tanzania in 2012 to volunteer with the Tanzanian Children's Fund and soon fell in love with the country and its community-based culture. Years later, as a student at the IHP, she completed her 14-week Advanced Practicum Experience at the Plaster House in Tanzania, a pediatric pre- and post-surgical home for children with treatable disabilities. Upon her graduation, she co-founded a nonprofit called Asali, which means honey in the official Tanzanian language of Swahili.
For the past five years, Asali has worked with Simba’s Footprint’s Community Center, a nonprofit that aims to unlock youth potential through creative programming and community-driven solutions, and other locally led, grassroots initiatives in the area. For its part specifically, Asali supports English education, music education, program development, and health care and in 2021, invested over $10,500 in locally led initiatives which has assisted more than 2,000 young people.
“I always knew I wanted to work in pediatrics after growing up around children – babysitting, working at summer camps, and watching my mom teach – so going into occupational therapy was a perfect blend,” Dr. Bellenis said. “I’d really developed a love for Tanzania and desired to learn how to sustainably make an impact there, so I was thrilled when I found a way to bring the two together.”
Faculty Making an Impact
In Amman, Jordan, OT Associate Professor Rawan AlHeresh developed and oversees a summer student experience called “Toward an All-Inclusive Jordan,” an academic-community partnership that’s part of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. In this program, IHP occupational therapy students train community-based rehabilitations (CBR) workers – volunteers with no formal training - on the best ways to deliver rehabilitation to those with developmental delays and disabilities such as autism, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, and Down Syndrome.
AlHeresh said the goal of the program, which just completed its sixth summer session, is to have CBR workers at the AlBaqaa Refugee Camp replicate home rehabilitation programs after the students have left.
“With a lot of programs in Central America and Africa, they treat the child one-on-one where the child gets better for a little bit but then has a bad remission and then the mom isn't able to do anything with them,” Dr. AlHeresh said. “We're training the community-based rehabilitation workers who live there. They’re not going anywhere and can make sure there’s continuous care.”
IHP Programs Abroad
The Department of Health Professions Education is strengthening its global presence with three international partnerships and educational offerings.
This fall, the department began offering its Master of Health Professions Education program to students at Alfaisal University, located in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh. Seventy percent of classes are held on campus to meet the region’s preference for in-person education.
“Our partnership fits the needs of the region in that exclusive online programs are not recognized,” said Dr. Janice Palaganas, the department’s associate chair. “Although this in-person requirement is not unique to Middle Eastern countries, we are happy that we can meet the needs of those who work in these cultures.”
Students in the two-year MS-HPEd program choose between two tracks: Simulation-Based Education to improve their teaching, or Simulation Operations for skills in simulation program administration, leadership, and management.
Educational Offerings in Grenada & Pakistan
The first partnership was established in late 2019, when an agreement was signed with one of the largest medical schools in North America, St. George’s University Medical School in Grenada. Since then, more than 75 faculty members have enrolled in the Institute’s year-long Teaching and Learning Certificate, where they develop skills as educators.
Recently, HPEd PhD students Dr. Maria Bajwa, Dr. Jabeen Fayyaz and Luther Raechal began offering a three-day interprofessional online workshop on simulation-based education for pediatrician physicians at the Indus Hospital and Health Network in Pakistan.