Peer-to-Peer International Collaborative Projects as a Platform to Promote Global Health Experiences

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Danielle Dohrmann, MSN
International Health and Medical Education, university of nebraska medical center, Omaha, NE, USA

Health professions students and medical residents want substantive international cultural-experience opportunities to be part of their program curricula. Three pilot programs examined feasibility and design potential of a peer-to-peer international collaborative project as a platform to promote global-health experiences. The US program designer and international planning-partners from Rwanda and Oman encountered similar, and at time unique, learning experiences along with the involved students.

An inter-professional mix of US and international health-professions students worked in trio-groups (1 US to 2 international), across several weeks, to learn education principles and methodology they applied to education-focused, peer-to-peer developed, collaborative projects. Projects completed in the country of Rwanda involved creating and producing e-learning modules, while in Oman it was planning and implementing a health education and screening fair.

The program designer experienced similarities in issues or situations between both countries that affected program planning: socio-cultural aspects related to communication, structure of health-care delivery, and handling of certain ‘sensitive’ health topics, long-range planning, and institutional bureaucracy. Program designer acted at times as a mentor to international planning-partners as they developed an appreciation about the importance of frequent communication, allowing long lead times, and the need to expand their role as educator or administrator. The latter resulted in developing a program evaluation or integrating research as part of the program design.

Each project saw all planning-partners and students contributing equally and eagerly their combined strengths, knowledge, and creativity, which amplified collaboration-related benefits. Students developed trusting, respectful personal relationships that allowed for critical discussions examining each country's health-delivery system, medical education structure, and health-related socio-cultural issues and considerations. Each area was witnessed or experienced first-hand through strategically designed curriculum and travel agendas. For some international students, partnering with US students were their first international and culturally diverse experience.

The program pilots proved feasible, and enabled internationally-partnered students to: cultivate intercultural awareness and professionalism, navigate cultural differences, use a variety of technologies, engage in community outreach, develop their role as future health educator, reinforce health education learning, and develop project management skills within an international context and across time zones. The peer-to-peer international collaborative project proved to be a novel program for each health-professions education institution to support multi-faceted and intercultural learning, and as a means to strengthen institutional relationships.