Costa Rica Trip Provides Insight into Global Health Care for UAlbany Students

School of Public Health students learned about the Costa Rica health care system in a variety of settings, including hospitals and clinics serving indigenous populations.

ALBANY, N.Y. (February 16, 2016) -- While most of the University at Albany community enjoyed its winter recess, a team of 11 students and faculty members from UAlbany’s School of Public Health and School of Business visited a remote village in the Costa Rican rain forest to learn about the public health/health care system that makes this Central American nation a global model.

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, primary care sites, health care outreach programs designed to reach migrant coffee field workers, and clinics serving indigenous populations. Among the stops was a meeting with the integrative HIV care and prevention team at Costa Rica’s oldest public hospital, San Juan de Dios.

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, during the Winter Session, to learn first-hand about that 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.

UAlbany Costa Rica School of Public Health trip
The partnership between UAlbany and UCR provides a unique learning experience for students seeking to learn about global health care models.

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 public health action in the real world.

For Leukou Nzoutchoum, this trip served as a poignant reminder of "the burdensome realities of social determinants and their prevailing consequences on people’s health. The trip provided me with a journey of self-discovery, which has informed and helped to shape the next stages of my professional career," she said.

Bill Wales, an 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.

"Social entrepreneurship demands a wide variety of perspectives," said Wales, noting that experiential learning trips like these are tremendous learning opportunities for students. "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."

The partnership between the UAlbany and UCR Schools of Public Health provides a unique learning experience, and is one of the longest such collaborations of its kind, said John Justino, director of the Center for Global Health.

"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," said Justino. "Continuing to build and expand upon partnerships like this one is vital to our school’s internationalization efforts."

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