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Video conferencing program connects College of Medicine students with rural Ghana

Penn State College of Medicine students videoconference with students in rural Ghana. The college students give presentations on health-related topics.

Penn State College of Medicine students video conference with students in rural Ghana. The college students give presentations on health-related topics from The Hershey Story museum.

Penn State College of Medicine’s agreement with MountCrest University is not the school’s only initiative in Ghana. Its medical students are preparing for a series of interactive health lessons with middle school students in the country.

The program began in 2014 after representatives from The Hershey Company approached Dr. Ben Fredrick, director of the College of Medicine’s Global Health Center, about developing a program with the medical students to use equipment it provides for the Ghana Distance Learning Program, a cultural exchange program for Milton Hershey School fourth grade students. Video conferencing technology connects the students with 11- and 12-year-old students in rural Ghana.

Fredrick and his students use the same format, providing health education through video conferencing.

Students were intrigued by not only the international component, but also the use of technology as a way to teach valuable lessons. It’s a skill they will need as healthcare changes.

“It was a way to connect our campus with a school in a rural area in Ghana,” Fredrick said.

As healthcare in the United States continues to transform, it will likely include a component of telemedicine video conferencing with our patients and our colleagues. It’s a skill-set we’ll have to learn.”

Since its creation, nursing and public health students were involved and the program is now largely student run. Medical student Eunice Chen and masters of public health student Lindsay Confer have led this year’s program.

Topics are selected by the College of Medicine students and the principal of the Ghana school.

Medical students research the selected topic and create an age- and culturally appropriate presentation. Dr. Adae Amoako, a third-year family medicine resident at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, helps determine cultural sensitivity of the material.

Four interactive videoconference sessions are held per semester in the Chocolate Lab at The Hershey Story museum. Topics have included hygiene, sanitation, food and water safety, nutrition and malnutrition, CPR, first aid and health careers and malaria.

The program demonstrates the creative opportunities in global health.

“This is one of those ways that allows engagement from our campus without necessarily leaving home,” Fredrick said. “It makes good use of technology to connect people across oceans on different continents who have different cultures and experiences and be able to share that.”

While Fredrick realizes the experience will not replace in-person contact, he believes it is a unique learning opportunity for Penn State Hershey students.

“This kind of tool allows our students to start breaking down barriers of engagement and become involved and volunteer,” he said.

– Jade Kelly Solovey

RELATED: College of Medicine and Ghana’s MountCrest University College begin collaborative relationship

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