The Office of Global Programs (OGP) unveiled the Global Health Research for Undergraduates program Tuesday, which hopes to expand global offerings in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education and foster a new relationship between undergraduates and the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons.
The new program offers eight students the opportunity to perform on-site clinical research in under-resourced parts of the world, as well as to cross-register for two courses in global health at P&S.
"The primary motivation was a desire to try and involve interested undergraduates in some of the really amazing work that P&S [ ] is doing in the area of global health," said Victoria Rosner, Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs for the School of General Studies, CC '90, GSAS '92 and GSAS '99. Rosner co-created the program.
The eight selected students will begin with a 1.5 credit course, Research Methods in Global Health, taught at P&S.
During the summer, they will travel to one of three research sites—two in the Dominican Republic and one in Haiti. The students will work on a team doing research in an expressed area of interest within global health with a P&S student and another health graduate student for eight weeks.
"I think it's very exciting for students to have the opportunity to do real-world research that will benefit patient populations all over the world, as undergraduates," Rosner said.
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The program culminates in a December symposium where students present the work they conducted abroad and during the semester to students, faculty, and program advisors.
All courses in the program are taught at the medical campus. The program also requires that participants are proficient in either Spanish, French or Haitian Creole.
"I think we're just going to have to see," Rosner said in response to questions about whether these requirements would deter students from applying. "We want students who are drawn to this program."
Some students have seen this as a compelling way to gain the clinical and research experience vital to getting into medical school.
"It seems like a great way not only to experience another culture, but also to make a change in the place that you visit and conduct research in medicine-related areas," Haidee Chen, CC '19, and a premedical student, said.
This program is part of a continuing effort to globalize Columbia's STEM education. This longstanding effort has worked to provide more programming geared toward STEM majors, like OverSEAS, a series of information sessions encouraging engineers to study abroad.
"Global Columbia really is about expanding breadth, expanding horizons," said Stephen Nicholas, professor of pediatrics at the Columbia University Medical Center, associate dean for admissions at P&S, and a co-founder of this program. "It's about using a larger dose of imagination to imagine the linkages between what we are doing here in New York and the rest of the world."
"What's behind this course is the belief that it would be important for anybody to expose themselves to a world beyond their own," Nicholas added.
Students also recognize the significance of gaining a more global perspective on scientific research and its effects.
"I think globalization is very important because it gives us a more broadened perspective of what we do have and how far medicine has come and how much more we need to do in terms of making healthcare accessible," Olamide Adeniyi, CC '17, and president of the Charles Drew Premedical Society, said. "Globalization of medicine can tackle that problem."
This program also tries to meet the lofty ideals of a global Columbia, getting students to engage more with the world around them and experience other cultures.
"When you have an exposure to something very different to the world where you grew up [ ] it's a bit like getting a vaccination," Nicholas said. "It's gonna give [the students] protection against all sorts of things, like hopelessness and cynicism."
This side of the program is meant to give students exposure to the "worldwide spectrum of poverty," Nicholas said.
Rosner also addressed how the program's scientific research component works as a part of Columbia's global strategy.
"This is actually being engaged in doing research and producing results that will lead to better healthcare for underserved populations," Rosner said. "That kind of real-world engagement [...] is very much in line with the ideals of a global Columbia."
She and Nicholas hope the interactions students experience with these communities will help inform their futures in health and medicine.
"I'm hoping that for a subset of the students, that they will really come back with a deeper insight," Nicholas said. "Ultimately [ ] what we're hoping for is that some of them will be really motivated to pursue a path to become tomorrow's leaders in global health."
In addition to getting students interested in research conducted abroad, the program also works to connect P&S with the undergraduate schools.
"I'm extremely happy that this is happening," Nicholas said. "I've really looked for ways that the medical center can become more involved with the undergraduate campus."
Students have also expressed excitement about the new opportunity.
"The med classes seem like a great way to gain experience before med school," Chen said.
Rosner hopes that this will mark the start of a new relationship between interested undergraduates and P&S.
"I believe it's new for undergraduates to have this opportunity to be enrolled at courses at the medical school," Rosner said. "I'd love to see this be a way to increase the collaboration between the undergraduate schools and the graduate health schools."
An information session for this program will be held on Thursday, November 19th at 5:10 PM in 603 Hamilton Hall.