January 20, 2012

InteRDom-URI Winter Program Concludes with Dialogue on Access to Public Health Services in the Dominican Republic

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The 2012 InteRDom-URI Winter Program concluded on Friday, January 20 in Santo Domingo with a cumulative activity that brought together all of the topics included on the intense agenda of tours and events: the forum “Initiatives and Programs that Promote Access to Public Health in the Dominican Republic.”

The University of Rhode Island students participating in the program were students of nursing or medicine and had completed a week-long service-learning trip to provide medical attention to residents of the rural community, Las Matas de Farfán, prior to their arrival in Santo Domingo for an introduction to the culture, politics and history of the country.  The forum that took place on January 20th was designed to tie together their experience in the community with all they learned about the social and political organization of the country during their 4 days in the capital.

The forum began with an overview of the organization and the recent reforms to the public health system in the Dominican Republic, a presentation prepared by the director of Center for Health Studies at Fundación Global Democracia y Desarrollo (FUNGLODE) and Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD), Dr. Alberto Fiallo, and delivered by Eufrasia Torres in his representation.  Torres emphasized the recent modifications to the public health system that provide better access to populations with few resources and increase the quality of the care provided.

Dr. Marcos Núñez, Dean of the School of Health Sciences at Universidad Iberoamericana (UNIBE) and President of the Dominican Association of Medical Faculty (ADOFEM), then presented on the efforts of the university to better prepare both local and international students to work in areas, like family practice, where regionally there is a lack of prepared physicians.

When asked about the importance of international exchanges for students in the field of medicine, he commented: “First they experience cultures and environments and how to maximize resources because here we make full use out of absolutely every tool that we have at our disposition.  It’s the same for Dominican students learning from American ones.  Dominican students can see how to work in a team because sometimes the different areas here are somewhat divided, so teamwork is an important element.”

A representative from the United States Association for International Development also spoke during the forum on the strengths and weaknesses of the country’s public health sector and the programs in place to face them.  He also provided statistics outlining the budgetary resources allocated to each individual program. His words were followed by a presentation by Silvia Tejada, Director of the National Bureau of Nurses, on the role of nurses in the health system, as well as their organization and objectives to increase the number of practicing nurses who can promote healthy lifestyles and practice preventative medicine in the rural communities.

After the initial presentations, the representatives fielded questions from the students and professors and began a robust hour-long dialogue on the current state of public health in the Dominican Republic, the challenges it faces and the role of both national and international actors in improving access and basic services.

Other collaborators who participated in the dialogue included: Alicia Curtin, Associate Professor at University of Rhode Island School of Nursing; Lucero Arboleda de Roa, Coordinator of the Virtual Health Library Program at the Technological Institute of Santo Domingo (INTEC); Juana Méndez, Nursing Faculty Director, Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD); Mirtha Tejada, National Director of Nursing Services at the Dominican Institute of Social Security (IDSS); and Ivelisse Sánchez, President of the Dominican Association of Graduated Nurses (ADEG).

The forum on “Initiatives and Programs that Promote Access to Public Health in the Dominican Republic” provided a platform for students to form connections between their work in the community of Las Matas de Farfán and the educational activities in which they participated in Santo Domingo, including a tour of the Dominican Congress, where they spoke to a legislator and learned about how laws are written and passed; guided tours of the Colonial Zone and the Mirabal Sisters’ Museum, where they learned more about the history and cultural evolution of the country; and a visit to the León Jimenez Cultural Center in Santiago, where Professor José Guerrero of the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD) and Awilda Reyes, Coordinator of Socio-Cultural Animation at the León Jimenez Cultural Center, gave important lectures and activities related to the social impact of the Dominican Carnaval.

The URI-InteRDom Winter Program complements the mission set by InteRDom and Fundación Global Democracia y Desarrollo (FUNGLODE/GFDD) to promote academic exchange between the Dominican Republic and international people and institutions. The internship program, InteRDom, an initiative of Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD) and Fundación Global Democracia y Desarrollo (FUNGLODE), is the premier internship, research and academic study program in the Dominican Republic. It offers international students the opportunity to research important topics at the forefront of the United Nations agenda, obtain professional experience by interning with Dominican organizations and businesses related to their fields of study and/or earn academic credits by taking courses and seminars at a local university.