School of Health Professions

Students travel to Colombia and India over spring break

Students and faculty pose in Bogota, Colombia during spring break trip.

School of Health Professions students traveled overseas during spring break to learn about health professions education and professional practice in Colombia and India.

Three students from UT Health San Antonio, including two from the School of Health Professions and one from the School of Nursing, traveled to Bogota, Colombia, in March. They were accompanied by Division of Respiratory Care Professor Ruben Restrepo, MD, RRT, FAARC, FCCP, and Department of Physician Assistant Studies Assistant Professor and Associate Clinical Coordinator Leticia Bland, DHSc, MPAS, PA-C.

As part of the week-long cultural and academic immersion experience, students visited different hospitals and intensive care units in Bogota, participated in clinical rotations, shared presentations on their own professions and met with faculty and students at Universidad Manuel Beltran. Restrepo and Bland also gave presentations on the U.S. health care system, while faculty from UMB presented on the Colombian health care system, Restrepo said.

The experience confirmed paramedic student Alex Santiago’s desire to work as an international paramedic.

“It makes me a lot more eager now to finish school and start looking for opportunities overseas,” he said.

The trip gave students the chance to appreciate what they have in the United States, but also to learn, Restrepo said.

“It’s a third-world country with first-class technology,” Restrepo said. “Sometimes it takes leaving your comfort zone. It’s extra valuable to share their experiences and hear what Colombian students have to say.”

Department of Physical Therapy Assistant Professor Sandeep Subramanian, PT, BPTh, PhD,  took 11 students from the School of Health Professions to India, where they visited the Manipal College of Health Professions. Five physical therapy students, three occupational therapy students and three medical laboratory sciences students made the trip.

“The main thing for the students is they got to compare and contrast the settings in the education provided in the U.S. and India, and as they learned what would they do in a setting if they had to practice with resources that are very different from what they have in the United States,” Subramanian said.

The program included numerous educational and cultural experiences, including visits to the university’s departments of yoga and traditional Indian medicine, and clinical rotations in community-based mental health, occupational therapy, women’s health, pediatrics, neurologic rehabilitation, blood bank and toxicology. The group also visited a temple, an elephant sanctuary and the Taj Mahal.

Occupational therapy student Isabella Dominguez said she was excited by the chance to learn about the practice of occupational therapy in another country.  

“I was very intrigued with the opportunity to go to India,” Dominguez said. “I thought it would be an amazing experience to see OT there. I didn’t know anything about the culture or how they practice.”

“The first day we toured the OT department and saw their lab and practice assessments,” she said. “We found they follow the same American Occupational Therapy Association guidelines we use in the States. One of the biggest things we noticed was they use metal for hand splints and orthotics in the hand therapy clinic, and we use plastic. They hand sew their slings.”

Both trips were return visits to the universities in Bogota and Manipal, and are part of a continuing commitment to international experience opportunities for students, said School of Health Professions Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs David Henzi, EdD.

“Not only are they able to see both inpatient and outpatient patient care from a different lens, but they are also able to visit with students to study differences in curriculum educational formats,” Henzi said. “It’s an opportunity we want to continue to increase, because whenever students travel overseas, they say it’s a positive experience.”

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