SPH Partners with Italy and Colombia to Provide International Perspectives on COVID-19

Diane Dewar
Dr. Diane Dewar, UAlbany Associate Professor, Department of Health Policy, Management and Behavior

Diane Dewar, associate professor in the Department of Health Policy, Management and Behavior at the University at Albany School of Public Health (SPH), has been working this semester with Ca' Foscari University in Italy and CES University in Colombia to conduct two separate Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) experiences. Through these experiences, SPH students are interacting with health economics students in Italy and medical students in Colombia to learn more about cultural and health system comparisons as they pertain to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COIL is an innovative method of teaching and learning developed and promoted by the SUNY COIL Center, which leverages online technologies to deliver global learning and intercultural experiences in the classroom. A COIL experience is a lesson in academic content, as well as intercultural communication and collaboration, for both students and faculty.

Dewar collaborated with Dr. Enrica Croda of the Ca' Foscari University of Venice to coordinate two teams of students from both universities to meet virtually via Zoom to discuss various aspects of their countries’ health care systems and how COVID-19 has impacted society, delivery of care, and health outcomes. Each team then wrote a short report to summarize their discussions and experience interacting with each other. For this COIL exercise, Dewar engaged interested students from her graduate level “Health Care Organization, Delivery and Finance” course (HPM 500) and Croda engaged health economics students working with her this semester.

Dewar also worked with Dr. Gino Montenegro Martinez of CES University in Medellin, Colombia to coordinate a COIL experience consisting of a series of presentations and collaborative discussions focused on vulnerable populations, vaccine hesitancy, and current health policies and service delivery challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Invited lectures for this COIL experience included two UAlbany SPH faculty (Julia Hastings, associate professor with dual appointments in the Schools of Public Health and Social Welfare, and Dr. Alvaro Carrascal, emeritus assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics) and four faculty members from CES University (Yessica Giraldo, PhD(c), MD; José William Martínez, PhD, MD; Juan Camilo Martínez Muñoz MSc; and Manuel Andrés Martínez Muñoz MD). The participating UAlbany students included both graduate and undergraduate students taking classes with Dewar (HPM 500 - Health Care Organization, Delivery and Finance and SPH 342 - How U.S. Health Care Works: Myths and Realities).  The CES University students included medical students interested in health policy and preventative medicine. The students worked together virtually to write short reports on the main concepts and facts presented and discussed during their joint COIL sessions.

“The COIL exercises allowed students to collaborate beyond the restraints of time and space and interact with individuals from other cultures while remaining on campus—which is highly beneficial,” says Dewar. “These experiences also allow partner universities to transcend geographic boundaries in an efficient, cost-effective way.”

Dr. Dewar encourages other public health faculty to consider building COIL exercises into their courses, if and when possible.

“The world is so interconnected and as such it is difficult to look at one health care system in isolation,” she says. “COIL enables faculty and students from different countries to interact, understand and learn from each other and this enhances the educational experience for all those involved.”

More information on UAlbany COIL initiatives can be found on the Center for International Education and Global Strategies website.