College of Medicine global health collaboration reaps benefits here and there

Penn State College of Medicine student Becky Koob took the old adage “walk a mile in another’s shoes” literally when she volunteered at a hospital in Kofordua, Ghana, last summer.

After working long days at the Eastern Regional Hospital in worn-out footwear, she decided to do something about it.

“To maintain sterile conditions, the staff can’t wear outside shoes in the hospital, so there was this pile of beat-up, communal shoes for everyone,” said Koob, a fourth-year medical student who is part of Penn State College of Medicine’s Global Health Scholars program. “There were never enough to go around. I had to track down shoes every time I went.”

Koob contacted multiple shoe companies asking for donations and found a willing partner in Calzuro, Italian-made shoes distributed in the U.S. from a base in Ohio.

The company donated 120 pairs of hospital-grade shoes and galoshes that can be put in an autoclave to be sterilized.

“The staff was very happy,” said Koob, who presented the shoes in a formal ceremony with the director of nursing. “I’m interested in doing small things that can help in consistent ways. Shoes are a small thing to us, but to the hospital staff in Ghana, they’re huge.”

During her first trip to Ghana as a first-year medical student, Koob settled on becoming a surgeon after she was able to shadow the hospital’s only surgeon on weekends.

“I want to include global health in my life,” she said. “It’s important to me that when one has much, you share with those who do not.”

Gaining perspectives like that along with firsthand experience over two separate visits makes the 10-year-old Global Health Scholars program particularly attractive to medical students, who increasingly value cross-cultural experience.

“We’re the only U.S. medical school doing a global health longitudinal curriculum built over four years,” said Dr. Ben Fredrick, director of the College of Medicine Global Health Center. “Our program values relationship with the local community and builds relationship over time.”

To be considered for inclusion, a country must have both a College of Medicine faculty champion and an international partner engaged at the site, and the country must be considered safe, he said. Participating countries are Zambia, Peru, Australia, Japan and Ghana.

Read the complete article on Penn State Medicine.

November 8, 2018 Penn State College of Medicine News

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