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Students Spend Six Weeks in Malawi on Interdisciplinary Study of Malaria Treatment

7 September 2011 No Comment

(photo courtesy of University of Maryland Malawi Project)


Students representing six University schools departed Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on June 27 to fly to Africa to participate in a summer interdisciplinary research project on access to malaria treatment.

The Global Health Resource Center, part of the University’s Global Health Initiative, sponsored the project under a larger University of Maryland study on the burden of malaria in several regions of Malawi. The six students, each bringing their own perspective to the project, worked together to determine whether people with malaria obtain care. 

The students were Elizabeth Duke, a second-year School of Medicine student who is interested in pediatrics; Jane Hannon, RN, a nine-year nursing veteran and a family nurse practitioner student at the School of Nursing; Jason Hodge, a student from the School of Pharmacy who was interested in studying the delivery of pharmaceuticals to the patients; Lucy MacGabhann, a third-year student at the Francis King Carey School of Law, who looked at problems in Malawi from the perspective of policymakers, including health care delivery and discrimination; Angie Larenas, a second-year School of Social Work student who looked at how Malawian families respond to illnesses and the challenges associated with access to care; and Shabnam Mazhari, a fourth-year School of Dentistry student who also is interested in issues regarding access to care.

The students were supervised by a team of faculty members including Miriam Laufer, MD, School of Medicine; Diane Hoffmann, JD, MS, Francis King Carey School of Law; Jody Olsen, PhD, MSW, School of Social Work; and Judith Porter, DDS, MA, EdD, School of Dentistry. 

The study was conducted in a rural, mountainous area of Malawi. The students flew from Baltimore to Atlanta and then to Johannesburg, where they spent the night. The next morning they flew to Blantyre, Malawi, where they stayed in a house leased for the malaria study. 

“As students of multiple disciplines, we all provided a different lens through which we observed and analyzed our experiences,” says law student MacGabhann, adding that the trip reinforced for each student that “we are all battling the same issues, and we all have the same concerns for the health of our patients and clients.”

Pharmacy student Hodge says the “sheer number of multifaceted problems that make up the barriers to health care hinder one discipline’s ability to solve the pharmacy problems facing rural Africa.”

“As a dental student,” adds Mazhari, “I began to realize that in order to limit illness we must encourage health, and that is a shared responsibility among all the professions represented.”

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