Global connections empower med students to pursue passions around the world
M4 Mohamad Issa became intimately acquainted with health disparities as an M1 student leader of the University of Michigan Student Run Free Clinic during its inaugural year. The following summer, Mohamad interned for the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) in a refugee camp in the West Bank where he worked as a medical assistant and conducted research that led to a recently published paper. Inspired by his time in the Kulandia camp, Mohamad decided to take a year off to pursue more formalized research training and a Master’s Degree of Science in Clinical Research. This past winter, Mohamad returned to the Middle East—this time to Jordan—on an international rotation sponsored by Global REACH.
Below he shares details about his journey, and how his travels across the world brought him full circle back to why he chose to become a doctor in the first place.
“By the end of the MSCR program, I was ready for an opportunity to experience a different academic environment, apply my developing skills to a research project, and provide meaningful assistance to Syrian refugees. The rotation was flexible enough to allow me to customize my experience so that I could maximize the time that I spent abroad. Over a total of six weeks, my clinical and OR experiences consisted of rotating at the University of Jordan, King Hussein Cancer Center (KHCC)—one of the largest cancer referral centers in the Middle East—and various private hospitals. I also volunteered with Helping Hand, an NGO based in the United States, working with Syrian refugees. During my time, I had the opportunity to visit several camps and orphanages, helping with clothing drives and food distributions.
“The biggest experience that helped prepare me for my rotation in Jordan was my M1 experience interning for UNRWA in Kulandia. The Global Health & Disparities Path of Excellence played a big role in preparing me for this trip as well. Through the various small group sessions, I came to understand and value the role of local stakeholders in any international effort, which led me to recruit a faculty mentor from the University of Jordan with similar research interests at the early stages of developing my own research project. Global REACH was instrumental in helping me network with faculty at the University of Michigan and for ensuring that I considered all aspects of my research project before leaving.
I think it is very valuable for medical students to expose themselves to various health care settings in their medical training. The experience allows students to explore unique practicing environments, exposes them to a diversity of patients and health care problems, and provides a dose of reality that the classroom cannot.
“What is unique about Michigan is that there are both established international experiences with a history of providing a rich exposure and scholarly experience as well as opportunities to develop new initiatives. These opportunities are why I chose to attend medical school at Michigan. The leadership here has demonstrated time and time again a commitment to maximize each student’s experiences, and a willingness to go the extra yard to empower students.
“My experience has significantly affected and reaffirmed my ideals of the profound impact I can have on patients as a physician. I decided to enter medical school to help heal people; between my rotations and work in the refugee camps, I was constantly reminded how the smallest things, like actively listening to a patient’s needs, can make the biggest differences. I feel reenergized and am eager to develop sustainable, collaborative strategies to eliminate health disparities and improve health care quality around the globe.”