2017 India

  • Interprofessional UMB faculty and student group attending the 2017 Dyuti Conference on Healthy Aging and Mental Health in Kerala, India

    Interprofessional UMB faculty and student group attending the 2017 Dyuti Conference on Healthy Aging and Mental Health in Kerala, India

  • UMB's Joan Pittman participates in the opening ceremony of the 2017 international conference on healthy aging and mental health in Kerala, India

    UMB's Joan Pittman participates in the opening ceremony of the 2017 international conference on healthy aging and mental health in Kerala, India

  • Students and faculty visit a hospital in Kerala

    Students and faculty visit a hospital in Kerala

  • The Vayalar Public Health Center serves a community of 20,000 people.

    The Vayalar Public Health Center serves a community of 20,000 people.

Interprofessional exploration of aging, health, and mental health in a global context

Winter 2017

Led by Joan Pittman, MSW, PhD and Deborah Gioia, MSSW, PhD, School of Social Work

Students (school affiliation): Jessica Aguilar (social work), Chiemena Anyanwu (nursing), Katie Ashmore (social work), Mia Dabney (social work), Sarah Dodson (social work), Patricia Drazin (social work), Rebekah Friedrich (nursing), Felicia Gross (social work), Lucy Hernandez (social work/public health), Danely Johnson (social work), Katherine Molling (social work), Shanice Morris-Sharpe (social work), Shaniqua Nelson (social work), Rebecca Lynn Newgren (social work), Rayne T. Trouwborst (social work), Annamarie Keyser Wagner (social work), Sarah Warner (social work), and Jasmine Alyssa Whitcomb (nursing).

Project summary

The goal of this course, Interprofessional Exploration of Aging, Health, and Mental Health in a Global Context, was for students to learn about models of aging, mental health and health care practices in India and in the global context.  Additionally, the course aimed to increases students’ cultural competence and their knowledge of and experience with other professionals. These goals were accomplished through pre- and post-immersion sessions in Baltimore and a two-week abroad experience in January 2017.

Faculty and students were active participants in the Dyuti 2017 International Conference on Healthy Aging and Mental Health at Rajagiri College of Social Sciences in Kerala, India. The conference provided a unique platform for UMB students to meet international students and hear lectures together about best practices for aging populations. The students and faculty presented posters (see below) that they had prepared in multidisciplinary groups. Students attended lectures and interacted with faculty, professionals and students from India and other countries. To learn more about the health care system and the Indian culture, the group visited health and mental health agencies including a public health center and hospital, work places such as factories, and religious and cultural sites throughout Kerala.

Upon returning to the US, the students submitted reflections and a photo series that captured a chosen theme or learning objective of their experience. It was to pull together what the pre-departure sessions prepared them for and their actual experience in India. The group presented their work in an all-campus event in February and their photos are displayed in the UMB campus center until April when it will move to be displayed at the Universities at Shady Grove. Drs. Pittman and Gioia are preparing a manuscript about their interprofessional global experiences and the experiences of underrepresented populations in global health.


"Over the course of this trip, I realized that there was much to learn from participating in this global learning opportunity beyond what I had expected to gain from the International Research Conference at Rajagiri College. Through my interactions with others, both my colleagues and the natives in India, I understood how much is taken for granted here in the United States and how important it is to practice cultural humility.  In the process of adapting to the different cultural environment of Kerala, India, there were times that I had to remind myself of my social location, where I was, why I was there, and to fully embrace the culture.  And once I did that, I erased all judgment and made sure that I was fully present in each of my experiences, both good and bad.  I found something good in every city that we passed through and stored it in my memory so that this would be a trip that I would never forget."  - Felicia Gross

"Everything I learned from this experience was priceless and go beyond anything I could ever receive from a textbook. My parents told me I would come back different after traveling to India but I didn't know exactly what they meant by that. Now I do. I have a greater appreciation for what I have and a clearer understanding what life would be like to go without those things. More importantly, I have a stronger passion for the career field I am pursuing. The encounters I've had with the people of Kerala and the environment in which they live really confirmed the importance of cultural competence and sensitivity. Traveling abroad has broadened my lens in social work and increased my desire to travel to more countries across the world."  - Mia Dabney

"The SOS village’s mission is to provide community and family based care to abandoned and destitute children. One unique factor of India's SOS village and orphanage is the employment of women who may have experienced traumatic incidents such as loosing a spouse. By employing these women, the SOS village gives them a new purpose in life. This organization places emphasis on building up a child as well as his/her community by providing a loving and supportive family structure for both child and caretaker. This experience provided additional insight into social relations in India's and the importance of community."  - Chiemena Anyanwu

"One of the first things that I noted when entering the primary health center we visited was that the majority of the staff were women, except for the doctor. It seems to me that the proclivity for care taking roles among women is a common thread around the planet."  - Lucy Hernandez

"In the afternoon, we gathered for separate group discussions. I chose to go to the one on holistic aging because I am always trying to think of different ways to help the elderly clients I work with. In this session, different speakers addressed different aspects of aging in Kerala. They spoke about Ayurveda and the effect it has on an elderly person. A few things they said were for older adults to wake up at the same time everyday, keep track of bowel habits, and gargle with hot water. They said in Ayurveda in order to have a clean body you have to have clean thoughts. This was particularly interesting to me because my clients often have such negative thoughts about their conditions and it may be helpful to encourage them to have healthy, clean thoughts. Another interesting topic addressed day care centers in Kerala for older adults which there are twelve locations throughout Kerala state. The purpose of the day care centers is to keep the elderly as part of their community and not institutionalized and isolated. The centers include community involvement and community leadership. Elderly persons who go to the day care centers receive interdisciplinary services including psychological support, nutritional and medical care, and meet with a social worker while they are there. It is so inspiring to see that they are trying to keep the elderly in their homes and communities in India. This resembles Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) program which is being implemented in the United States and where I am doing my field placement locally at Hopkins Elderplus."  - Annamarie Wagner

Read more about the project through a UMB student blog.

Student poster: Challenges faced by widowed and childless elderly women in India

Student poster: End of life care: India and USA

Final student project: A comparison: The role of spirituality in end-of-life care in the US and India

View the 2017 team project presentation