A Global Exchange of Knowledge, Compassion and Medicine
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Courtesy of IU Center for Global Health
If the goal of global health, generally speaking, is to exchange studies and research and to increase collaborative efforts while improving health for all people worldwide, I would say that the Indiana University Center for Global Health and its partners at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital and Moi University School of Medicine in Eldoret, Kenya, are making significant contributions to that effort.
This summer, Carmel resident Sean Buehler and Zionsville resident Grace Rushton were two of four selected Slemenda Scholars to travel to Eldoret, Kenya, this summer with the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) program. The AMPATH program is a partnership between Kenyan and North American universities and academic medical centers working with the Kenyan government to deliver health care to a population of more than 4.5 million people, train the next generation of health care providers and conduct research to improve lives around the world. IU School of Medicine’s leadership and involvement with AMPATH and other global health activities is one of the primary reasons all four students selected IU for their medical school training.
Heading up the IU Center for Global Health is Zionsville resident Director Robert Einterz, M.D. Dr. Einterz is also the Donald E. Brown Professor of Global Health and associate dean for global health at Indiana University School of Medicine and director of the Indiana University Center for Global Health. Einterz co-founded the Indiana University-Moi University, Kenya partnership in1989. In 2000, Dr. Einterz co-founded the AMPATH program, which delivers health care services to a population of more than 4 million people in western Kenya.
What Is the Slemenda Scholars Program?
The Slemenda Scholars program is one of the first opportunities that IU School of Medicine students have to participate in global health activities. Both medical residents and fourth-year medical students may travel to AMPATH programs in Kenya for two-month elective rotations throughout the year. Reciprocally, Kenyan medical students also have opportunities to travel to North American institutions, such as IU School of Medicine-Bloomington. More than 1,800 North American medical trainees have visited the AMPATH partnership in Kenya, and more than 400 Kenyan trainees have visited their colleagues in North America.
The scholarship—named after the late IU School of Medicine epidemiologist Charles Slemenda, DrPH—covers students’ travel, room and board while in Kenya. IU initiated the alliance with Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital and Moi University School of Medicine in Eldoret, Kenya, in 1988 and leads the AMPATH consortium of North American universities. For the last three decades, IU has had full-time faculty in Kenya.
Representing IU School of Medicine at the AMPATH program were Buehler, Rushton and fellow Slemenda Scholars Michael Harding and Bilal Jawed. Each scholar shared some of their experiences while abroad and the perspectives that they will keep in their hearts for the rest of their lives.
The 2019 Slemenda Scholars
Sean Buehler—Carmel, IN
Buehler’s mother is a nurse, but he didn’t realize his calling to medicine until his sophomore year of undergraduate school.
“I knew that I wanted to help people one way or another,” Buehler said. “I went to Brebeuf Jesuit, and that education ruined me in the best way possible—I can’t imagine doing a job that’s not directly involved in service. If I had to choose one memory from this trip, there’s one image that is burned in my mind. It was one of our first weeks in the pediatric hospital, and there was an incredibly joyful boy. Bilal [Jawed] had made a bunch of paper airplanes with a group of kids in the Child Life Center, and they were throwing them down at the kids below. I’ll never forget the image of that joyful boy, who was technically supposed to stay in his [hospital] bed, really trying and believing he could throw that little purple paper airplane all the way up at us on the third floor. He kept chucking it and was going to keep trying to throw that thing until it fell apart.”
Grace Rushton—Zionsville, IN
This was Rushton’s second visit to Eldoret, Kenya. She first visited the AMPATH partnership in 2012 as a teen volunteer. Rushton attributes watching her parents’ work in the medical field to her early interest in medicine and science. She explained that her previous experience in Eldoret helped her prepare for the trip this summer.
“I had the mindset that I know what I’m getting into, at least for the most part, in terms of logistics and the living situation,” Rushton said. “That absolutely helped me to have a smoother transition. We landed [in Eldoret] on a Thursday afternoon, and that Friday morning we rounded with a couple of different physicians on the medicine wards. The project that I worked on was called ‘Chamas for Change.’ We got to hear from some of the women about their experiences with [Chamas], and for me, getting to work with that team for summer was very impactful to me.”
Michael Harding—Tampa, FL
Harding shared how he switched his major from fine art to medicine after spending a summer, prior to his freshmen year at Florida State University, in Honduras, where his mother is from. During that trip, Harding shadowed his uncle, a physician who provided medical care to an entire rural community. That experience led to Harding finding his calling in the field of medicine. When asked what thoughts he had about the trip to Eldoret, Harding shared, “As part of my project, I got to write some operating procedures regarding the clinical mentorship program, which is kind of a mini-scale version of something AMPATH does on a larger scale. I will remember how welcoming and collaborative everybody was and how they incorporate more people to achieve a bigger dream.”
Bilal Jawed—Indianapolis, IN
Jawed has health experience in resource-limited settings in Peru and Uganda and works with the Montgomery County (IN) Health Department. In Uganda, he served as a research assistant in HIV and cryptococcal meningitis. One of his tasks with the county health department involved trapping, typing and treating mosquito larvae and constructing a heat map of West Nile risk in the area.
“I really enjoy working with the whole person, and what I took from this trip [to Eldoret] is that I really enjoyed and am attracted to the idea of creating roles rather than just filling them. I feel that global health is a good way to do that, and apart from all that, global health is a fun way to exchange culture and to be out there [in the field] working with your hands.”