Issue No. 14, Fall 2009, Volume 9, Number 1

Inside Out

Medical Exchange

Illustration includes hands shaking, flags and medical symbols

Months before departing Saudi Arabia, Abrar Baeisa watched American movies, listened to American pop music and surfed the Web. She wanted to be ready for her first glimpse of the Western world.

Baeisa and nine other graduates of the Saudi Institute for Health Services arrived in Miami for a six-week exchange training program at Miami Dade College’s Medical Center Campus. While here, they furthered their professional careers and obtained a global view of health care.
Miami Dade College is a top destination for health professionals from around the globe looking to continue their education.

Recently, the College hosted doctors and health professionals from Mozambique who were researching new techniques to address the HIV/AIDS crisis in their homeland. Also, five Russian physicians visited MDC as part of the Open World program, an international exchange aimed at enhancing understanding and sharing knowledge between the U.S. and Russia.

The Saudi group was comprised of six female nurses and four male opticians. Classes included medical ethics, problem solving, communications, critical thi Medical Exchange znking, CPR, AIDS and domestic violence, as well as clinical experience in their respective professions.

The opticians participated in a special course in low vision, partial sight or sight that is not fully correctable with surgery, pharmaceuticals, glasses or contact lenses.

Those with degrees visited local community health, elderly care and women’s health centers at several hospitals, including Ryder Trauma Center and the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.

During their last week of training, the students practiced monitoring patients at MDC’s human patient simulator laboratory using life-sized mannequins that perform human-like functions, such as breathing and blinking.

The program also provided a rich cultural exchange, especially for the women, who are not allowed to study with men in their native country.

For class, they wore white lab coats, but never removed their head scarves, a sign of respect for their Saudi peers and religious beliefs.
As part of the program, the graduates gave a presentation about their culture and nursing practices in Saudi Arabia to MDC students. They embarked on a history boat tour around Miami Beach and the Miami River, and they took excursions to Key Biscayne and South Beach. “It has been a really nice experience,” Baeisa said. “If I had the chance to complete my studies here, I would.”

Carol Miller, MDC’s dean of health sciences, said the students held fast to their traditions, such as praying five times a day.   

“This gave me a firsthand opportunity to really learn about a culture that is very, very different, especially for women, than anything we experience in the U.S.,” Miller said. “They are a very family-centered society, and very religious people, and their day-to-day decisions are really guided by their religion.” 

The exchange program was established between MDC and the Saudi Institute for Health Services in 2006. That year, MDC administrators and faculty from the Medical Center Campus traveled to Saudi Arabia to learn more about the country’s health care system and its education needs.

Salwa Abdulkabder, a nurse who visited MDC, learned about the program from one of her teachers at the Saudi Institute for Health Services. She said she always wanted to be a nurse and would like to one day return. She’s not alone. Several of the Saudi students have expressed an interest in continuing their education in the U.S.

— Sue Arrowsmith

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