University at Albany Students Visit the University of Costa Rica to Learn About Universal Health Care

In January of this year, a team of eleven students and faculty members from UAlbany's School of Public Health and School of Business visited Costa Rica to learn about the public health/health care system that make this Central American nation a global model. The group was led by the School of Public Health's Center for Global Health, as part of a bilateral agreement between the University at Albany and the University of Costa Rica (UCR). Under this agreement, the Comparative Health System Exchange Program began six years ago; bringing students from the UAlbany School of Public Health to Costa Rica each January, over the Winter Session, to learn first-hand about the country's health care system and students from the University of Costa Rica School of Public Health to New York State each Spring/early Summer to learn about the US health care system.

During the visit, the group attended meetings and lectures at the UCR School of Public Health in San Jose and participated in numerous site visits to the Ministry of Health, main hospitals, primary care sites, health care outreach programs designed to reach migrant coffee pickers, and clinics serving indigenous populations. Ornella Leukou Nzoutchoum, a second-year Master of Public Health student originally from Cameroon, participated in this year's exchange program trip to Costa Rica in order to reflect on the theories and concepts she's been learning in the classroom and on how best to translate them into the real world. For Ms. Leukou Nzoutchoum this trip served as a poignant reminder of "the burdensome realities of social determinants and their prevailing consequences on people's health" and was "a journey of self-discovery which has informed and helped to shape the next stages of my professional career."

Bill wales, Ph.D., associate professor at the School of Business and an expert in entrepreneurial studies, joined the group to explore collaborative projects between the two schools and Costa Rican counterparts. Dr. Wales believes experiential learning trips like these are tremendous learning opportunities for students: "Social entrepreneurship demands a wide variety of perspectives. This trip really helps students expand their understanding of how healthcare services may be delivered, both at home and in other countries around the world."

John Justino, director of the Center for Global Health, describes the long-term partnership between the UAlbany and UCR Schools of Public Health as unique and ripe for expansion. "Our partnership with the University of Costa Rica School of Public Health is one of the longest-standing international partnerships the Center for Global Health has launched to-date. As a result, a strong and enduring set of personal relationships between faculty, students and alumni has been created. The leaders of both schools are eager to leverage these personal and professional connections to develop new collaborative research and academic exchange initiatives at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Continuing to build and expand upon partnerships like this one is vital to our school's internationalization efforts."