Miller School Medical Students Collaborate with Provincial Minister of Health in Dominican Republic
Through the support of the non-profit organization Medical Students in Action (MSA), University of Miami Miller School of Medicine M.D. and M.D./M.P.H. students met with the Dominican Republic’s Provincial Director of Health, Manuel Antonio Hilario Acevedo, M.D., in San Cristobal on July 10 to collaborate on the development of a community health worker program. Over the past 13 years, MSA has organized and led annual, week-long health fairs in three rural communities of the San Cristobal Province.
“This MSA driven community health worker program provides essential resources, follow-up and guidance to community members long after the health fair ends,” said Alberto J. Caban-Martinez, D.O., Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of public health sciences and faculty mentor to the students. “Dr. Hilario has been a staunch supporter of our medical and public health students developing a framework for rural communities to engage with the local primary care clinics, Unidades de Atención Primaria beyond our annual health fair.”
Hilario expressed his support for the development of a public health internship through which future M.D./M.P.H. students may complete their capstone fieldwork experience. The internship is one component of the fieldwork curriculum being created by third-year M.D./M.P.H. student Sarah King with funding awarded by the SpringBoard Grant.
“This synergy with the Ministry of Public Health is a crucial step in expanding on MSA’s global health mission: serving the needs of the underserved,” said King. “By organizing an officially recognized community health program in San Cristobal, trained community health workers will be employed year-round to provide their communities with medical assistance and health education while serving as liaisons between patients and their closest health care provider.”
Joaquin Jimenez, a second-year medical student and MSA’s Public Health co-director, said the program provided “a great way for us to gain a better understanding of the structure of the Dominican health care system and the types of services available to our patients at different levels of this system. We were also able to identify a new rural municipality that demonstrated a significant need for basic medical services that we hope to serve with future MSA trips.”
Kyle Klingbeil, a second-year medical student and MSA’s logistics director, said that he developed an interest in global health while volunteering at a health fair.
“Top health concerns include controlling the spread of sexually transmitted infections, caring for chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, and improving water quality to prevent the spread of infectious diseases,” said Klingbeil. “With the combined effort from MSA, the community health workers and the Ministry of Public Health, we can truly make a difference in these areas.”
While cost and access to medical care remain significant public health problems in the Dominican Republic, MSA community health workers form a network of para-health professionals who can link patients to necessary health care resources and services.