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UMB Team Travels to Malawi to Renew Interprofessional Work Abroad

Students representing each of the professional schools at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) have begun a six-week course of interdisciplinary study in Malawi. The students departed June 13 from Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport, bearing not only backpacks and luggage but supplies for public health outreach.

School of Dentistry student Peter Krumbhaar, for example, was maneuvering through the Delta baggage check-in process with a large bundle of office supplies for the group's activities. Once abroad, he said, he hopes to use his passion for his field to teach basic public health.



The Malawi Project is sponsored by the University's Global Health Interprofessional Council (GHIC). Created to promote international health education, research, and service with a focus on interprofessional growth and engagement, the GHIC has now supported four experiential education projects in Malawi. The 2013 team is focusing on two endeavors: working with a law school to develop a collaboration around both the Maryland and Malawi HIV legal clinics and conducting participatory research activities in a rural village in Malawi. The latter will be in preparation for a study being developed by one of the faculty advisers, Miriam Laufer, MD, MPH, who is the leader of the summer interprofessional experience.

"This year we are following up on two exciting results of our experiences in Malawi over the past several years," says Laufer, an associate professor at the School of Medicine. "We have developed a close relationship with Chancellor College of Law in Malawi and now are exploring opportunities to link the HIV legal clinics that exist at both our institutions. In the second part of the summer program, the students will follow up on the links we have established with the rural health centers in Chikhwawa, one of the poorest districts in Malawi, and will be helping our research team develop community-based programs that focus on malaria detection and prevention."

The group will employ a community-based interactive model for Participatory Analysis for Community Action (PACA), a key component of which is generating a participant-based community map.

In keeping with its interprofessional approach, the University's Malawi project is overseen by faculty members from various schools who rotate during the summer. Starting off are professors at the Francis King Carey School of Law. Diane Hoffmann, JD,MS,, director of the School's Law and Health Care Program, traveled with the students from Baltimore on the initial legs of the trip. She is shown above in a photo taken shortly before departure. The group flew first to Atlanta and then on to Johannesburg, South Africa.

There, they met up with Peter Danchin, JSD, LLM, LLB, director of the School's International and Comparative Law Program, who joined the group for the final leg to Blantyre, Malawi. After completion of the HIV legal clinic activities, the UM Carey Law faculty will hand off to Laufer, who will introduce the team to the rural community where she has been working for several years in southern Malawi.

The team will be joined by Jody Olsen, PhD, MSW, a visiting professor at the School of Social Work who is director of the UM Student Center for Global Education.

"The students gain a much better understanding of responsibilities of each other's disciplines," says Olsen, "and they return from each six-week project with new perspectives of how interprofessional health teams can affect change both for individual patients and for their families and communities. Experiencing a completely different health care setting, such as that in Malawi, students rethink some of their practices here at home."

Judith Porter, DDS, MA, Ed, associate professor at the School of Dentistry, will supervise the team for the final weeks in Malawi, during which they will be providing feedback to the community where they have been working and preparing a final report. They are scheduled to leave Malawi at the end of July.

On June 16, within a day of the group's arrival in the primarily rural nation in southwestern Africa, the team went to a tea plantation and made its way to a mountaintop. Meanwhile, the team members also had begun posting on the UMB Malawi project Facebook page ,
seeking support for efforts to repair the Mfera Health Center in rural Malawi, The goal is to spare women and their newborns from lying under a leaky roof during the rainy season.

The student participants were selected based on both their interest in international research and commitment to interdisciplinary work. In addition to Krumbhaar, a dental student in the Class of 2015, the Malawi team is made up of Sharmala McCoy, a law student in the Class of 2015; Samantha DuFlo, a student in the School of Medicine's Department of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Science, Class of 2014; Sheila Razdan, a medical student in the Class of 2016; Brandon Fleming, a School of Pharmacy student in the Class of 2015; Mirna Chicas, MS; a member of the School of Nursing Class of 2013; and Tamlynne Kelley, MSW, a member of the School of Social Work Class of 2013. Both Chicas and Kelley are completing work in the University's Global Health Certificate Program.

The team brings each profession's skills to the collaborative venture. In 2010, the inaugural interdisciplinary team performed a needs assessment of orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) in the Salima District, Malawi. In 2011, students carried out an interdisciplinary assessment of health utilization behavior for malaria illnesses. This is part of a larger University of Maryland study to conduct surveillance of the burden of malaria disease in several different regions of Malawi. In 2012, students worked together on a six-week study of maternal/child health services.



Posting Date: 06/25/2013
Contact Name: Patricia Fanning
Contact Phone: 410-706-7946
Contact Email: pfanning@umaryland.edu