St. Jude partnership goes international to train tomorrow’s leaders today.
Meandering past towering trees and century-old bungalows, Rhodes College sophomore Sierra Thompson navigates the three-mile stretch of thoroughfare that links her college with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. The connection is a local partnership that’s gone international—one that’s taking students nearly 5,000 miles from home on an educational and cultural journey to prepare them for careers in science and medicine.
For the past four years, students in the Rhodes-St. Jude International Summer Plus Program have spent their summers conducting clinical research and shadowing pharmacists and physicians at Calvo Mackenna Children’s Hospital in Santiago, Chile. The students then perform clinical research with mentors during the ensuing academic year.
“This program can be life changing,” says program coordinator Ann Viano, PhD, an associate professor of physics at Rhodes and visiting scientist in St. Jude Radiological Sciences. “Many of the applicants have an interest in eventually practicing medicine in a Spanish-speaking environment, and this program provides them with that cultural immersion and direct exposure to medical practice.”
In addition to having a rudimentary knowledge of the Spanish language, applicants submit letters of recommendation and write essays detailing their interest in the program.
One of the reasons Thompson applied to Rhodes was the opportunity to study abroad at the Santiago hospital, which is a St. Jude partner site.
In Chile, Thompson spent her weekday mornings going on rounds with the hospital’s clinical pharmacist, visiting Intensive Care Unit patients and sitting in on treatment discussions. She also performed independent research, using pharmaceutical software to compare patients’ medications to prevent adverse drug reactions.
“My favorite part of the hospital experience was visiting with patients and seeing what the daily experience was like for someone in the medical field there,” Thompson says.
In the afternoons, students attended a school for international students to brush up on their Spanish skills. Each student lived with a host family throughout the eight-week period, which allowed for some sightseeing adventures to nearby cities on weekends.
After returning to Memphis, Thompson and Rhodes student Matthew Cannavo, who also spent time in Chile for the program, began working with James Hoffman, PharmD, St. Jude medication outcomes and safety officer, for 10 hours a week. The students focused on tasks related to medication safety and quality.
“St. Jude is a great learning environment for these students interested in careers in health care and science to receive training,” Hoffman says. “Their contributions are mutually beneficial.”
The program offers aspiring scientists and clinicians a glimpse of how St. Jude is impacting the world.
“Working in both environments—in Chile and at St. Jude—has been wonderful,” says Thompson, who is interested in practicing medicine abroad. “It’s been a valuable learning experience in many ways.”
Abridged from Promise, Summer 2013