September 13, 2023

‘Really Energizing’: UMMS students relate their experience in Brazil’s Winter Schools program

Each July, Brazil's most prestigious medical school hosts students from around the globe for a two-week program that combines classroom and clinical experiences.

Gururaj Winter Schools group photo
UMMS student Anirudh Gururaj (second from left) in Brazil with Winter Schools FMUSP mentors Roberto Rasslan (center right) Dr. Felipe Kfouri (center left) and fellow students from the UK, Chile and Peru.

Two UMMS students traveled to Brazil in July, joining peers from around the world to network and learn at the country’s top medical school.

Mark-Anthony Lingaya and Anirudh Gururaj, both M4s, are the latest students to take part in the Winter Schools program hosted by the Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de São Paulo, FMUSP, a longtime UMMS partner institution. Each July—winter in the southern hemisphere—FMUSP invites select medical students from around the globe to spend two weeks learning together and observing in the affiliated Hospital das Clínicas Complex, Latin America’s oldest and largest university health system.

“I met incredible people from Chile, Bolivia, the UK, Germany and The Netherlands, and of course Brazil,” said Lingaya. “There was lot of conversation around, ‘This is how we approach learning  about this topic,’ and ‘This is how our system works.’ It was really energizing.”

He and Gururaj each received travel grants through Global REACH that helped cover the cost of airfare to São Paulo. Global REACH offers a limited number of the awards each year in conjunction with the Winter Schools program application period, typically held in February-March.

The Winter Schools’ curriculum offers several discipline-focused tracks allowing participants to tailor content to their interests. Lingaya participated in dermatology courses. Gururaj opted for trauma surgery.

“While I’m not pursuing a career in trauma or acute care surgery, I have an interest in it—how it presents, the diagnostic workup, resuscitation, how it’s managed, it's long-term complications. So this was a great way to explore an area medicine unfamiliar to me but that will still be highly relevant to the patient population I hope to serve in the future,” said Gururaj, also an M4.

With his fellow students, he was able to round with the FMUSP teams as they treated patients in the emergency departments, the ICU, and OR. The patients they saw came to the hospital with a variety of acute issues, from malignant bowel obstructions, complications of pancreatitis, and traumatic brain injuries to gunshot wounds, stabbings, and motor vehicle accidents.

“More than anything, it became clear that one cannot boil these questions down to simple steps and solutions,” said Gururaj. “Drs. Roberto Rasslan and Felipe Khouri, two acute care and trauma surgeons who led our course, really helped us delve into nuances of a lot of these clinical issues, medical and social. We learned how to critically think about these interdisciplinary problems, recognize that there were no easy answers, and process uncertain outcomes.”

In the dermatology track, Lingaya was able to see cases and conditions that are uncommon in the United States.

“When I chose dermatology, I knew the pathology would be completely different than the things I am accustomed to seeing,” he said. “We saw patients with leprosy, botfly myiasis—incredible pathology that I won’t ever forget seeing in person.”

For both students, though, the true highlight was getting to know peers and friends from other countries.

“People were coming from different places, and different phases of their training,” Gururaj said. “We had extensive conversations about the how the medical system works in other countries, the cost of medical education, the expectations and relative competitiveness of different specialties, and where people saw themselves in the future."

“We became very close and many of us are still in touch,” he said. “I hope many will stay friends and become future collaborators."