Students on the ground


by Lawrence Loh, MD MPH


Our first group of global health undergraduates from McMaster University have arrived in La Romana to undertake their Embedded Learning Experience with The 53rd Week and our local partner, Good Samaritan Hospital. This group of four undergraduates will be based in La Romana until early December, jointly supervised by the local hospital leadership in La Romana as well as by 53rd Week preceptors remotely from a distance. A few members from our team had the opportunity to head down and ensure that students were well settled in their accommodation, arriving just after Labour Day weekend, and teaching students about the lay of the land.

Prior to arriving in La Romana, our undergrad participants took the opportunity to participate in a rigorous pre-departure training curriculum. Sacrificing their summers they picked up basic Spanish, learned about ethics and cultural sensitivity, and also augmented their research methods and skills. Those skills are coming in handy now in conducting a sexual health survey with community partners to better understand needs and perceptions around feminine hygiene, sexually transmitted infections, and sexual health among adolescent girls in the bateyes of La Romana. The initial development of the protocol and study instrument has been completed and ethics approval is currently being sought.

Over the next few months, the students will take the opportunity to share their experiences and insights on this blog right here, so stay tuned. The biggest concept being emphasised in their participation is one of respect for local culture, taking a wider opportunity to understand and learn than to come with pre-conceived notions of deficiencies or things to “address”. Much of their research project development has been done together with local hospital leadership and community leaders to ensure key local concerns are being identified.

We are excited that these students will have the opportunity to experience La Romana and the Dominican Republic in the capable hands of our local partners. In keeping with our organisations values, while we will ensure that the students will derive a good learning experience, it is our hope that their project will be able to provide a valuable contribution to the local community in La Romana despite their short time there, and that any relationships forged will last long beyond the time of their Embedded Learning Experience.

Stay tuned for more updates!


Photo: our team of third-year McMaster undergraduates in La Romana - from L-R, Christopher Russell, Julianne Zandberg, Daniel Martinez, and Brendan Wong

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