Pharmacy school establishes public health program in Haiti


Submerging one’s self into another culture and providing medical and pharmacy care in an environment with few resources is a life-changing opportunity for student learners.

The Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Pharmacy is adding another such opportunity to its international learning experiences. The school has established a public health experiential rotation in Haiti that will begin in spring 2018.

Kelly Gable, associate professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and coordinator of global partnerships; and Misty Gonzalez, clinical associate professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice, traveled to Jacmel, Haiti, March 6-13 to explore opportunities for future student learning.

Part of a team of eight volunteer medical professionals, the two participated in a medical mission through Hands Helping Haiti.

“The purpose of our trip was to explore pharmacy student learning opportunities while also providing medical care to an underserved patient population in Haiti,” Gable said. “The SOP aspires to create programs such as this, as we believe that hands-on, culturally submerging experiences promote both personal and professional student growth.

“These experiences force students to think critically, practice creative problem-solving with limited resources, and self-reflect,” Gable said. “Participation has the potential to not only dramatically enhance a student’s clinical skill set, but it also directly builds upon a student’s expression of compassion and altruism.”

Through the new rotation, two fourth-year students will spend one week in Haiti, actively participating in the medical mission. They will then spend four weeks working on health education programming at two shelters in St. Louis. The public health focus of the learning experience includes reduction in infectious disease transmission, substance use and harm reduction, and preventative primary health care.

“These types of experiences are invaluable for the student learner,” Gonzalez said. “We are excited to add this international learning experience to the growing number of opportunities offered to SIUE pharmacy students in Guatemala, Jamaica, India and Costa Rica.”

Gable, Gonzalez and team provided preventative and acute medical care to 301 children and adults in Haiti through a pop-up pharmacy they set up in a school. They treated and encountered common illnesses such as scalp and skin fungus, ear infections, hypertension, diabetes, parasites and scabies.

“Hands Helping Haiti travels to Jacmel twice a year and sets up ambulatory care clinics and a pharmacy at The Modern School and Kindergarten of Savannette,” Gable said. “This school is continually sponsored by the Hands Helping Haiti organization and provides education for pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade students.

“The organization’s co-founders, Ruth and Warren Smith, are both health care providers practicing in Illinois,” Gable said. “Their central Illinois location and well-established medical-focused mission made for a perfect SIUE-SOP collaboration.”

When not providing direct patient care, the team had the opportunity to enhance their cultural awareness by learning more about the clean water project, trying authentic Haitian cuisine, and exploring the beautiful growing art scene in Jacmel. Gonzalez documented the experience with the creation of this video.

For more information, contact Gable at, visit the School of Pharmacy’s global education website, or follow the school’s Global Education Facebook page.

Advantage News/May 9, 2017



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