From South Africa to Spain, Summer Means Study Abroad for Nursing Students

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University of Michigan School of Nursing (UMSN) students have one of the busiest schedules on campus due to their courses and clinical placements. That’s why summer is such a valuable time for students interested in global health. This summer, dozens of students traveled around the world to learn about health care in different countries and contribute to research and projects aimed at improving health for global populations. View more photos on the UMSN Facebook page. 


Rosello (center) gets a close look as a patient is examinedJunior Joan Rosello focused on diabetes in Buenos Aires as an intern for a doctor specializing in the disease. She worked at a private practice and at a local public hospital, and she also helped with workshops on nutrition. Rosello spent three weeks in a Spanish-language immersion program before her internship began. She says she found working in a different language difficult at first, but is now inspired to continue developing her Spanish speaking skills and hopes to work abroad as nurse.  The internship was organized through U-M’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) International Internship Program


Creal built a bee box in workshop highlighting connection between bees and foodJunior Kelly Creal and Hillman Scholar Meg Czerwinski, traveled to Gabon with the Eco Explorers: Gabon – Design/Build Program, through U-M’s Stamps School of Art & Design, a research initiative aimed at implementing solutions to sustainability challenges in resource-constrained settings. The group organized a workshop with local villages and Gabonese faculty and students to generate solutions to local sustainability challenges such as human and wildlife conflict, water contamination, and energy scarcity. As the only nurses on the cross-cultural and interdisciplinary team, Creal and Czerwinski were able to provide a unique perspective.  Following the workshop, they visited local villages to collaborate on the implementation of these solutions.  In one example, they built a more efficient cookstove that requires less fuel and filters smoke out of the kitchen and away from human lungs. Both students say they gained an appreciation for the complexity of intertwining sustainability and community health concerns. They agree the experience brought them invaluable perspective that will enrich their nursing practice.


  • Caitlin Choi (center) and fellow U-M students show their Wolverine prideJunior Caitlin Choi was in Ethiopia working on a family planning project with U-M College of Engineering’s Design for Global Health Internship. Subcutaneous (under the skin) implants are a commonly used form of contraception because they are simple to insert; however, they are more difficult to remove. The interdisciplinary team focused on conceptualizing a prototype for a new implant that can be removed much more easily. The group evaluated design solutions with partners and conducted interviews to collect and analyze data. The group will continue to improve the prototype and plan to bring it back to Ethiopia next year. 
  • Gebhard practiced putting in an IV at Aksum University’s skills labA team of UMSN students and faculty continued work to set up an interdisciplinary clinic for human trafficking survivors in Ethiopia. Undergraduate students Annemarie Gebhard and Rebecca Singer completed a community assessment of the surrounding areas and met with local workers and post-trafficking survivors. The group met with faculty and students from Aksum University to discuss future collaborations and compare nursing curriculum. It was a return trip to Ethiopia for Hillman Scholar Kristen Choi, master’s student Dana Beck and faculty members Sue Anne Bell, PhD, FNP-BC, and Michelle Munro-Kramer, PhD, CNM, FNP-BC, who have been working on the development of the clinic for more than a year.
  • Undergrad Rhodene Mullings worked on the clinic for human trafficking survivors with the UMSN group in addition to a research project funded by the Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training (MHIRT) Program, which focused on how patients seek treatment for sexually transmitted infections and how providers are trained to treat these infections. 


  • Juniors EmmaJuniors Emma Gell and Corinne Hauck with Indian students Gell and Corinne Hauck traveled to India through a U-M Global Course Connection Program for students in the Global Scholars program. The two-part trip began at an organization called Jeevantirth, which offers various forms of assistance to people living in poor communities. Gell and Hauck created a survey that focused on social, economic, and educational status, then went door to door to interview 100 families. The students analyzed and presented the data to the founders of the organization, who will use the information to create programs to benefit the community. For the second part of the trip, the students worked at an integrated school for disabled and able-bodied students. They led a conference and filmed a video aimed at reducing the stigma of disability.
  • Much of Zanyk McLean's time was spent in local communitiesJunior Karina Zanyk McLean served as a Summer International Health Fellow with the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children in Kodaikanal, India, with funding from the U-M International Institute. The rural mountaintop region is about three hours from a major hospital and lacks in many traditional health care resources says Zanyk McLean. She assisted in care of local patients at two small hospitals and conducted health check-ups on young children at day care centers. In addition, she worked on projects including health surveys and home inspections for local families, as well as educational health programs for parents of the children in the day care.


Students form an "M" on Mexican stepsEight U-M students, including two nursing students and one graduate assistant, participated in the UMSN-led course Spanish Language for Health Professions. The program began with a two week seminar on culture and health care in Mexico, taught on U-M’s campus by Clinical Assistant Professor Nancy "Amby" Gallagher, PhD, APRN-BC, followed by four weeks at Instituto Cultural Oaxaca. Clinical Instructor Mary Martinez-McCormick, MS, APRN-BC accompanied the group to Oaxaca, while Dr. Gallagher continued coordinating the seminar in weekly Skype sessions. The students completed rigorous classroom language instruction, including Medical Spanish. They visited clinics, hospitals, traditional healers and a local nursing school to learn about health care in Mexico.  They also volunteered at local health care and social service agencies to learn how culture, diet, modern medicine and indigenous health traditions intersect in Mexican culture.


The MHEAL group with the portable exam tableSophomore Christina Khouri was part of an interdisciplinary team in Nicaragua with U-M’s M-HEAL (Michigan Health Engineered for All Lives). During the previous school year, Khouri and other students researched, designed and built prototypes for a portable gynecological exam table. It is part of Project MESA (Making Examinations Safe and Accessible), which aims to make cervical exams more accessible to women all over the world. In Nicaragua, the U-M group accompanied clinicians using their table for cervical exams on mobile visits to rural locations, and gathered feedback from the clinicians and the patients. The group also met with manufacturers to discuss mass production of the table.


  • Van Essen worked on a project to preserve Incan ruinsSophomore Meredith VanEssen joined an LSA Global Intercultural Experience for Undergrads (GIEU) cultural learning experience in Peru to train with volunteer firefighters known as bomberos. VanEssen says the bomberos go through rigorous training to help local communities in areas of social, medical and environmental outreach. The trip included volunteer work with an archeologist to preserve ancient Incan ruins by moving rocks, picking up trash and animal feces, and building a path for visitors. The group also learned about the history of Afro-Peruvian culture, and some students extended the trip for a visit to Machu Picchu, considered one of the most important archeological sites in the world.
  • Spencer shows of her UMSN pride at Machu Picchu Undergraduate student Jenna Spencer spent six weeks volunteering at a girl’s orphanage in Cusco, Peru through the (LSA) International Internship Program. Spencer’s tasks varied on a daily basis, but she spent much of her time helping the girls with their homework and reading. She says she couldn’t help but bring her nurse-in-training mindset and shared gentle observations about hygiene and wellness with the girls, including the importance of good mental health. Spencer noted that their nurse’s room was no longer used as intended because it was needed for storage space, but had high praise for how the staff managed their limited resources. Spencer also made the trek to Machu Picchu.

South Africa

The UM group with collaborators in South AfricaHillman Scholar John Shaver and PhD student Nick Metheny spent two months in South Africa working on a large scale study of male couples in Africa, with specific efforts to understand how these men use HIV prevention services, and how stigma and discrimination can affect their health behaviors. Shaver and Metheny share the challenges of understanding the intricacies of male-male relationships and health disparities in their blog. Both agree the experience was extremely valuable to their understanding of how important community engagement is in research, along with building relationships and dropping assumptions. John’s travel was funded by a U-M Wallenberg Summer Travel Award, while Nick received funding from the U-M International Institute and the African Studies Center. UMSN Professor Rob Stephenson, MSC, PhD, and Assistant Research Scientist Lynae Darbes, PhD, are leading the project with colleagues from other universities and community partners in Africa.


 Bryant displays the M flag in Albarracín

Junior Lauren Bryant spent five weeks in Spain shadowing medical professionals at Obispo Polanco Hospital as an Atlantis Project Fellow. She had rotations in anesthesiology, cardiology, psychiatry and orthopedics, among other clinical specialties. Bryant says she found observing differences between American and European health care settings to be one of the most valuable learning experiences of the fellowship. She says the staff was very welcoming and encouraged her to be involved whenever possible. In return, Bryant said she enjoyed giving back by teaching some of the staff and their children conversational English.


Galliani interviews local boys about their family treeJunior Helen Galliani headed to Tanzania for an internship with Project Global Officer (GO). It’s a program run by the U.S. Department of Defense to encourage future officers to study a "strategic" language abroad. In addition to taking intensive Swahili courses, Galliani worked in a reproductive health clinic. Galliani says she observed, and assisted when appropriate, with contraception consultations, giving immunizations to mothers and babies, pregnancy check-ups, and treating women with various sexually transmitted infections. “I even got to help nurses with the delivery of two babies,” says Galliani. Through the second part of the internship, she traveled to Zanzibar, a nearby chain of islands to work on research focused on responsible dolphin-tourist interactions. Galliani is part of U-M’s Naval Reserve Officers Training Corp and was featured in a UMSN article about her clinical experience at the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare.


  • Alyssa Henderson holding a Ugandan babySenior Alyssa Henderson says her aspiration to be a pediatric nurse was strengthened through her two and a half week experience at an organization for abandoned babies in Uganda through U-M’s GIEU program. She says the admissions process of a 12-day-old boy was one of the most powerful experiences. Henderson was able to help by performing a health assessment and charting her findings, in addition to observing the diagnostic testing and medication administration on the infant. Henderson also spent several days at a local medical clinic.
  • The journey to Uganda was a return visit for Hillman Scholar Katie Finn. In 2015, she utilized a U-M Wallenberg Summer Travel Award to partner with the Global Health Uganda Computerized Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy (CCRT) team. Their research focuses on children who are cognitively impaired due to malaria. Finn worked with the team on a study to determine the effectiveness of CCRT on improving neuropsychological and psychiatric outcomes. This year, Finn continued collecting data and conducted qualitative interviews with Ugandan staff and affiliated teachers regarding their perspectives on the intervention.

Spotlight: One PhD student had global health experiences in Ghana, Brazil, Zambia, South Africa and Scotland.

PhD student Julie Buser had one of the busiest summers of all UMSN students. She began the season in Ghana exploring gender-based violence among freshman at the University of Cape Coast. Buser conducted focus group discussions and worked on the adaption of a primary prevention curriculum for university students. This work is in collaboration with ongoing work by UMSN Assistant Professor Michelle Munro-Kramer, PhD, CNM, FNP-BC.

Buser with a women’s group from FimpuluBuser joined the UMSN group in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil for the Global Ambassadors PhD Summer Research Institute in May and then headed off to Zambia in June. There she worked on focus group discussions with mothers, community members and healthcare workers about newborn care, community mobilization and maternity waiting home utilization.

In addition, Buser participated in the Sigma Theta Tau International Congress in Cape Town, South Africa, presenting a poster entitled “A Cost Analysis of Maternity Waiting Homes in Liberia.” Then she was off to the World Health Organization Collaborating Centers conference in Glasgow, Scotland, where she presented another poster, “Newborn Outcomes and Maternity Waiting Homes: A Scoping Review.”

Finally, she returned to Brazil in late August to collaborate on an interdisciplinary initiative with U-M law and business students and a Brazilian university to facilitate the strengthening of anti-human trafficking efforts in South America.

View more photos on the UMSN Facebook page. 

Students, did we miss you? If you had a global health experience this summer, please send details and pictures to