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International Rotations

International Rotations - Kaoh Siung

A good physician needs to have a world view in this age when cultural diversity is the norm.

That's why fourth-year students at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine have the opportunity to expand the depth and breadth of their education by serving and learning in an international setting as part of their clinical rotations.

Students may select from among established partnerships with hospitals and medical education programs in Brazil, France, India, Peru, Poland, Russia, South Korea, and Taiwan.

[Nathan Zinman - Trujillo, Peru]: Going down to latin america, to a country I had never done before, was really a big goal of mine and it was amazing.

[Sahal Thahir - St. Lo, France]: One thing it helped do, especially towards the end of my medical school career here at VTC, was it helped tie everything together. It helped me see that the skills that I have will be universal to helping people throughout the world. 

[Nathan]: Going to a place where I can be fully immersed, practice my skills, and really continue to grow in a professional manner. There's nothing you can learn from a book what that life is like, what access to healthcare is like, and how that might play a role in the care that I hope to give, and the sensitivity of that type of care. Similar to what we learn here at VTC about how you want to be with your patients, talk to them sensitively, and really approach issues in an appropriate way.  

[David Trinkle - Associate Dean of Community and Culture]: We knew as a new school, 10-12 years ago, as we were developing the curriculum, that global health - then and now - lines up with our mission of graduating physician thought leaders, and really broadens our students' horizons into health disparities, into health systems sciences and learning how different systems work, and ultimately in caring for different populations and in different cultures. 

[Sahal]: It has helped me see the commonalities throughout the world, across languages. There are certain things you have to embody as a physician regardless of what language it is. You have to be able to show empathy, you have to be able to show confidence as well.

[David]: We've tried to find programs that are impactful on the experience side but also where we have formed relationships and hopefully have free board, maybe food, and lots of connections so people take care of our students. 

[Nathan]: Living with a Peruvian family was awesome. It was an older couple in their sixties, they had a son about my age who came and visited every once in a while. But that is where the cultural competency component point comes in. Living in an AirBnB or a hotel, you're more of a spectator but living within a family unit was amazing. 

[Nathan]: My international rotation in Peru was not funded. And that did make it difficult for me, and a much more difficult decision for myself and some other classmates that were considering going. 

[David]: Unfortunately we learned that many students had canceled their global program even though they really wanted to go, just a month or two beforehand, because they are out of money. They've been interviewing all fall and they just don't have the funds.  

[David]: We have done it without scholarships, and we've now had the luxury of a few years of having scholarships and we know the difference. And the numbers will go down without the scholarships, and we think that's a shame because again, this an impactful program and it's one of the last chances that future physicians will have to participate in a global health elective. 

[Sahal]: I think of all the things I have done in the fourth year, this one was the most eye opening for me, and is something I think will last longest throughout my medical career in terms of the impact it had. 

[Nathan]: It was an incredible experience. It's one of the best things I decided to do during my fourth year here at VTC. 

[Sahal]: This helped me build a better world view and I think that's something that's really importent to me, and will help me in the long run for years to come in my career.

[Nathan]: It is one of the best things that I can do and is going to change the way that I practice going forward. 

  • Sahal Thahir went on to study Pediatrics at UNC Chapel Hill
  • Nathan Zinman went on to study Internal Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine

“Each location is a unique opportunity,” said Dr. David Trinkle, associate dean for community engagement. “Students will be exposed to differences in healthcare delivery, communication protocols, working as part of a healthcare team, and the availability of resources. These are practical and enriching experiences that they can take into their clinical practice.”

Some of or international rotations were placed in locations that had long standing relationships with our area through the Roanoke Valley Sister Cities program.

It would be hard to deny that becoming a physician gives you certain perks in life. Your efforts and dedication reward you with the respect from the communities you serve. No matter where you go that MD after your name tells people you have something important to give.

Through a program associated with Roanoke's Sister Cities, members of the class of 2016 traveled across the globe learning how other cultures practice medicine.

[Mary Jo Fassié - President, Roanoke Sister Cities]: It's important because we don't want to just be an organization that does cultural exchanges. We want to spread out into other areas where a lot of people are affected and students can learn. The students that are coming here or that are going to the sister cities are learning about health care around the world, and what a better way to do that then in a welcoming environment of Sister Cities.

[Narrator]: Fourth-year students Catie Gambale and her fiance Russell Trigonis made the trip to France earlier this year. There they were given the chance to train with not only French physicians but to hit the avenues of Saint-Lo with EMTs.

[Catie Gambale]: I'm one of the ones that I'm really excited about is pre-hospital medicine or EMS. So we're going to theoretically be riding around in ambulances going around through the little town and seeing the countryside a little bit, so I think that should be a fun one.

[Narrator]: Joe Pechacek traveled to India as part of his international rotation. Learning the differences in technology, culture, and illnesses changed him.

[Joe Pechacek]: I was it was an awesome experience. I took a lot from it and it's something that I'll you know remember throughout my life and hopefully in some ways my practice has changed a little bit to relying a little bit less on some imaging things like that and a little bit more on what you can see directly in front of you and interact with and talk to the patient and do sort of base off your physical exam.

[Narrator]: The ability to help people to cure illness and to ease pain has always been highly valued. The skills you received at virginia tech carilion school of medicine give you a passport to the world where you can make a difference. Always remember no matter what community you find yourself in you have the skills and talents to make lives better.