The World of Health at Thomas Jefferson University

Peak Johnson, for GPA -- Thomas Jefferson University puts a high value on the exchange of ideas, related research, education and patient care with members of the international community. It welcomes people from all over the world to work, study and engage in research at its facilities and encourages Jeffersonians to study, lecture and research abroad.

The Office of International Affairs - opened in 1991 by Assistant Vice President of International Affairs Janice Bogen - works with all University departments and individuals to facilitate exchange and to offer orientation to international visitors.

“We have about 800 international folks on campus, doing research or visiting to observe every year,” Bogen said. “They come from more than 60 countries, some are here for as little as a day, some stay for five years and some stay for longer and obtain a green card.”

Jefferson works with countries all over the world including Italy, China, Russia and Hungary. The University also has a Japan center that was established in 2012 to facilitate physicians, nutritionist, administrators and others to come and learn about Jefferson’s many systems and hospitals.

“We also have an exchange with Rwanda,” Bogen said. “So for the past nine years we’ve had a few students visit some of the villages over in Rwanda doing public health assessments and helping with malnutrition projects, water and hygiene.”

Students travel over to Rwanda to not only assist with the health assessments but to also raise money, to enable a few Rwandans to travel to the United States and visit Jefferson.

“They come to Jefferson to observe, so when the Rwandan students come over they talk about the kind of projects they want to do next summer and then our students go there and shadow their physicians.”

Bogen has heard from students who have traveled abroad that they feel they are better prepared to be clinicians, after experiencing things that are totally different from their normal curriculum.

“Here you have a lot of machinery to help diagnose,” she said. “In many of the places they go, there isn’t the diagnostic machinery that we have here. They learn how to diagnose using different skills and the students who come here get to see how we do things. Some will be leaders in their own countries later on and they can see how things are done here and maybe take back ideas.”

Bogen added that the exchange students who arrive often end up being teachers for their peers, offering an understanding of what life is like without so many machines assisting in the health field.

Jefferson is also developing modules for distribution across the discipline of global health, offering best practices for things like using an interpreter in interaction with a patient.

“We have to keep in mind that the learning goes both ways, in whatever location,” Bogen said. “I just really believe in studying abroad, even if it’s just for a month. It just opens your eyes to all of the possibilities.”

In looking towards new initiatives, Bogen noted that Jefferson has just signed an agreement with St. George’s, University of London. The two universities are set to collaborate on a range of initiatives that are designed to prepare students for 21st century global health challenges through exposure to both US and UK health systems during the program.

This new program will be delivered by an innovative, jointly developed curriculum, capitalizing on both universities’ expertise in medical education.

“It goes to the very essence of why I do what I do, that I really truly believe that cultural exchange is eye opening and a very positive influence to students,” Bogen said.

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