Health science students and professors traveled to Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire to gain hands-on experience in various health care clinics during spring break as part of a Healthcare and Culture course.
The group consisted of 24 occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech pathology students and four professors. As part of the course, the students applied to go on the seven-night cruise to experience healthcare in other cultures. Students researched the destinations beforehand and had to write an essay upon arriving back home.
Physical therapy professor Barbara Belyea, who accompanied the students on the trip, said healthcare has become a global issue, and it is important for students to have an understanding of different cultures and how each person’s cultural background factors into the health decisions a person makes.
“It was a great opportunity, not only for our students to work together with other students, but also just an amazing experience for them to be able to immerse themselves in a couple different cultures and get a better understanding of healthcare issues that other countries are facing and other kinds of healthcare delivery that is occurring outside of the United States,” she said.
During their first day in Aruba, the group had the opportunity to hike through the Aruba national park and experience the culture of Aruba. During the second day, the group visited the Aruba Autism Foundation, where they spoke with the founder of the clinic and learned how a local was able to create a clinic to help families detect the signs of autism in their child as well as learning about how to get the proper treatment.
In Curacao, the group went to the Curacao Dolphin Therapy and Research Center, which uses dolphins as motivational techniques to achieve optimal results from the therapy being provided to children with spinal cord injuries and neurological and cognitive impairments.
Senior recreation management student Anna Sumerlin was one of four students who organized and planned the trip. She said the trip was a great experience to have over spring break.
“We got to see other cultures and how healthcare takes place and just be immersed in something different instead of just the cruise aspect of it,” she said.
Sophomore physical therapy major Tim Reynolds said the trip was one of the best experiences he has ever had. He said he enjoyed having the opportunity to compare healthcare facilities in the United States to those of other countries while simultaneously becoming closer with students in the same fields.
“I would definitely go on this trip again, without even thinking twice,” he said. “We had a great group of people with us, amazing faculty members watching over us, and had the opportunity to visit three amazing islands of the Caribbean while on a cruise ship. Why wouldn’t you want to go again?”