Hershey welcomes three international students for exchange program


Students in the Penn State International Health Exchange program work in the Cubs Caring for the Community tent at the Farmer’s Market in Hershey.

If there is one thing that Wei Ting (Shaba) Chien has learned during his time in the United States, it’s that no country has a perfect public health system.

The senior medical student from Taiwan was one of three international students from Taiwan and Republic of Georgia to spend two weeks training on and around the Penn State College of Medicine campus in July as part of the Penn State International Health Exchange Program.

“I wanted to see how the Western world is like us, and how the system is different here,” he said.

Students in Penn State’s Master of Public Health program can complete international internships and fieldwork as part of their global health practice-based learning, but this summer, for the first time, students from partner institutions abroad have come to Hershey.

“The Penn State International Health Exchange Program is a significant step for our global health program, which aims to bring students, faculty and health professionals together to examine public health issues affecting the world,” said Dr. Vernon M. Chinchilli, distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences.

The Master of Public Health program is designed to prepare future public health leaders, improve population health and reduce health disparities on local, national and international levels through education, research and service.

“The training was modeled after our Master of Public Health program, which emphasizes first-hand knowledge of public health practice,” said Julie Lentes, assistant director for health communication in the Department of Public Health Sciences. “We wanted our international students to have the opportunity to learn from key public health leaders in the region and how they interact.”IMG_1258

Students in the program met with legislative staff on Capitol Hill and visited the Baltimore City Health Department to hear from senior staff entrenched in that city’s major health issues. They attended presentations by Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Karen Murphy and Physician General Rachel Levine. They also heard from College of Medicine faculty and visited the Lion Reach mobile education center for medical professionals.

The students engaged with the local community by serving dinner at the Ronald McDonald House and shadowing medical students caring for the homeless at Bethesda Mission in Harrisburg. They also interacted with local children at Penn State Hershey’s Cubs Caring for the Community tent at the Farmer’s Market in Hershey.

Yi-Ting (Judy) Wu, a doctoral pharmacy student at Taipei University, said her country talks a lot about a low birth rate and caring for the elderly – two issues she didn’t hear much about here. “It is a lot of pressure on our future generations,” she said.

Wu said the medical and legal partnerships she observed during her stay were a new concept for her, and one from which she thinks her home country could benefit from. Health equity, health security and women’s health also were issues to which she hadn’t been exposed to very much prior to her visit.

Chien was surprised at the number of times healthcare workers and leaders talked about problems with abuse of narcotics and opiates. “They told us it is a major cause of accidental deaths – more than even car accidents,” he said. “That is very shocking to me because it’s not as serious of a problem in Taiwan. We have different laws.”

He said the United States is unique in that it has the highest health expenditures in the world, yet similar outcomes as his home country of Taiwan, which provides national health insurance for its citizens.

“All systems have their advantages and disadvantages though,” he said. “Maybe (in my country) people will start to abuse the system because it is so easy and efficient to get care.”

Ana Jalaghonia from the Republic of Georgia said she wants to be a general surgeon, so she was most impressed by a tour of the simulation center that introduced her to devices such as the daVinci robotic surgical system. In her final presentation, she compared advances in U.S. medical technologies compared to those in her home country.

Jalaghonia also observed that American doctors spend more time with their patients than those in the Republic of Georgia. “American doctors are so nice and have good conversations with their patients,” she said.

Lentes said it was especially rewarding for the College of Medicine’s Master of Public Health students to have personal interactions with the international students, especially those who haven’t had an opportunity to travel internationally.

Jessica Parascando, a second-year Penn State Master of Public Health student from New Jersey, said she enjoyed the opportunity to participate in site visits with the international students since she didn’t have a chance to take one of the international trips offered through the program.

“We do a lot of research to see what other countries are doing, but to have them come here and hear about things rather than reading it in a paper is amazing,” she said. “They always had great questions and a different perspective.”

Although it was interesting to note differences among the countries – students in both Taiwan and Georgia typically start medical school much earlier – the similarities were what surprised her most. “Not only how our hospital systems run, but family dynamics too,” she said. “We talked a lot about the stigmas associated with addictions and how it looks bad for families. They have issues like that there, too.”

Having a chance to share other international public health experiences with each other and compare notes was another valuable part of the program for both the international and Penn State students. “I think the more you know, the more you will find something new and interesting that might be good,” Chien said.

Wu agreed, adding: “Something that is a national public health issue could become a global one in the future, but we can come together to address it.”

“One of the main goals of the Penn State International Health Exchange Program is to introduce both international and Penn State students to the public health systems in other countries, as well as social systems that may impact health,” said Dr. Kristin Sznajder, associate director for international initiatives. “Ultimately, we aim to provide opportunities for knowledge exchange that could lead to global public health improvements.”

Lentes said the international students added a diverse element to the student body that was rewarding for the about 50 Master of Public Health students.

“The program may grow or evolve into something different based on our learning experiences,” she said. “But we are excited to do it again.”

  • By Jennifer Vogelsong

August 18, 2016 at 1:54 pm Leave a comment

Camp Lionheart: A place for young heart warriors

Camp LionheartSome young campers celebrated the fifth birthday of a little girl they never knew on Aug. 2, although they had a lot in common.

“My little girl was a heart warrior like you guys,” Williamsport resident Jennifer Ayers told the 15 campers at Camp Lionheart. “ It means a lot for me to be able to have this camp for you so you can meet other heart warriors.”

The inaugural session of Camp Lionheart at Camp Kirchenwald in Colebrook, Lebanon County welcomed campers age 11-18 who share an important bond with Ayer’s daughter, Ellie, who was born on Aug. 2, 2011 and died from cardiomyopathy (heart disease) on April 25, 2012.


August 10, 2016 at 3:12 pm 1 comment

Zebrafish help researchers study human genes


New Zebrafish Functional Genomics Core provides Penn State scientists tools to advance research

While a popular fixture of home aquariums, zebrafish have become a popular and important tool for studying human disease. The fish have more in common with humans than meets the eye, and provide an effective and efficient way to study genes.

Perhaps nowhere in central Pennsylvania is that more apparent than at Penn State College of Medicine’s newly-constructed Zebrafish Functional Genomics Core.

The core provides the Penn State research community with a modern, centralized facility for housing, breeding and performing experiments with zebrafish, one of the fastest growing model systems in biomedical research. (more…)

July 27, 2016 at 3:32 pm Leave a comment

How to do medical school in three years

While most of his peers will spend their last year of medical school applying and auditioning for residency programs, James Kent gets to skip what can be a stressful process. He’ll finish medical school in three years instead of four, not only saving a year of tuition, but also locking in his residency when he was accepted into the Family Medicine Accelerated Program at Penn State College of Medicine. As part of the program, Kent will stay in Hershey for six years as he finishes medical school and his family medicine residency in the same location.

James Kent

James Kent

“That it takes a lot of stress out of medical school as far as worrying about where you’re going to match after you graduate is appealing,” Kent, the first student admitted to the accelerated program, said. “It was nice for me to know I’d be in the same place for six years.” (more…)

July 22, 2016 at 7:16 am Leave a comment

Innovation Cafe is about connections and advancing ideas

Editor’s note: The next Innovation Cafe is 5 to 7 p.m. on  June 30. Click here for more information

Allan Fausnaught

Penn State Harrisburg engineering student Allan Fausnaught, founder of Woodland Percussion, shows the construction elements of his drums.

Innovation and music may not be an obvious connection, but it created perfect harmony at Penn State’s latest Innovation Cafe, a networking program organized by the College of Medicine’s Office of Technology Development.  The quarterly Innovation Cafe encourages collaboration between investors, entrepreneurial faculty, students and industry professionals committed to building a vibrant start-up community in Central PA.

Offering a variety of topics, like Innovations in Music, helps attract diverse backgrounds and disciplines, which can lead to much needed connections. (more…)

June 22, 2016 at 3:24 pm Leave a comment

Cancer survivorship clinics support patients through recovery

The Cancer Institute will host its annual National Cancer Survivors Day Celebration on Friday, June 10, 2016 that will include an educational seminar on topics relating to survivorship wellness such as exercise, diet and creative writing. For more information, visit http://inspiredtogether.org/events/penn-state-cancer-institute-survivorship-celebration-rainbow-hope/ or http://www.ncsd.org/about-us.

Although she’s a cancer survivor, neither word is in Nancy Schlegel’s vocabulary. Instead she considers herself a thriver who conquered her foe.

“I don’t use the word ‘survivor’ and I don’t use the word ‘cancer’,” Schlegel, 77, of Manheim Township said. “It’s not something I focus on and never have, even after I was diagnosed.”

Schlegel refuses to let cancer define her. It’s how she copes with life after cancer, one of many cancer patients who are treated in survivorship clinics at Penn State Cancer Institute. (more…)

June 7, 2016 at 1:55 pm Leave a comment

Children’s Miracle Network Telethon is June 4-5

The 32nd Annual Children’s Miracle Network Telethon benefiting Penn State Children’s Hospital will air on Saturday, June 4 from 2 to 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 5 from 2 to 6 p.m. on WGAL-TV8.

Children’s Miracle Network funds critical patient care, ground-breaking research and life-saving equipment at Penn State Children’s Hospital. During this year’s telethon, viewers will be encouraged to make a donation by calling 1-877-543-7365 or visiting PennStateHersheyCMN.org. The telethon fundraising goal is $250,000.

State-of-the art pieces of equipment were recently purchased to help children with eye conditions that result from extreme prematurity, child abuse or various diseases. (more…)

June 2, 2016 at 7:48 am Leave a comment

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