Four Indiana University (IU) School of Medicine students selected as Slemenda Scholars will learn about every facet of AMPATH Kenya’s programs and complete a project with a faculty mentor during a 7-week summer experience.
Rising second-year students Noor Abdullah, Geneva Baumberger, Kaitlyn Roberts and Lauren Roop will spend the summer working alongside Kenyan counterparts as part of the partnership in western Kenya. AMPATH, the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare, is a partnership between academic health centers to deliver health care, train the next generation of health care providers and conduct research to improve lives around the world.
IU School of Medicine physicians began the partnership with Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) and Moi University School of Medicine in Eldoret, Kenya in 1988. IU leads the AMPATH consortium of universities around the world and has had full-time faculty in Kenya for more than 30 years.
“Each year the selected Slemenda Scholars have a unique opportunity to be immersed in the AMPATH Kenya partnership early in their medical school career,” said Debra Litzelman, MA, MD, MACP, director of education for the IU Center for Global Health Equity which coordinates the Slemenda Scholars program. “Many former Slemenda Scholars are now leaders in AMPATH and other health equity initiatives around the world,” she continued.
Abdullah is looking forward to the opportunity to gain firsthand global health research experience and learn from the community in Eldoret and at MTRH. She graduated from Purdue University with degrees in biology and global studies and has an interest in pediatrics. Growing up she saw how members of her Syrian-American family and community experienced challenges within the healthcare system. “I learned from these experiences how a combination of individual and communal identities directly impact an individual's perspective on healthcare and their access and ability to navigate treatment plans. Ultimately, I decided to pursue a career in medicine because I saw the impact that a physician has on the quality of patient care,” said Abdullah, who is from Fishers and a student on the IU School of Medicine-Indianapolis campus.
The Slemenda Scholars program began in 1998 and honors late IU faculty member Charles Slemenda, DrPH, who had a passion for international medical education. Dr. Slemenda spent three years in Lesotho working as a public health worker after completing his MPH in health services administration. The award in his name helps pays for travel, room and board and a small stipend for the students to participate in the partnership.
As the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants, Baumberger aspires to meet the growing needs of the Hispanic community in her future career in medicine. She was drawn to AMPATH due to its commitment to equitable partnership and the emphasis placed on treating people and communities holistically, not just as patients. “Partnership begins by first recognizing the value in both the experiences and knowledge of a community and its people. It means treating the voice of the community as a resource that one has the opportunity to learn from,” said the University of Notre Dame alum who studies at the IU School of Medicine-Bloomington campus. “The AMPATH model leverages these partnerships to create sustainable access to care beyond bodily health. I am excited for the opportunity to learn under the guidance of the AMPATH model and build relationships with my counterparts at Moi University,” she continued. Inspired by her older sister, she will be working with AMPATH faculty on a project related to pediatric developmental disabilities while in Kenya.
The Dr. Talmage Bosin International Study Fund will support a portion of Baumberger’s travel to Kenya. Dr. Bosin is a past center director for the IU School of Medicine-Bloomington and passionate supporter of international travel and study abroad. Both Dr. Bosin and Betsy Bosin regularly visit and support the AMPATH partnership in many ways.
Several short-term international service trips sparked Roberts’ interest in a career in global health. "The lived experiences of individuals that I met while abroad echoed medical disparities such as impossibly long distances to travel for care, a total lack of access to specialists, less than optimal medical technology and resources available, and more," said the Butler alum who will be focused on building critical care capacity at Shoe4Africa Children’s Hospital as her project in Kenya. “Participating in the Slemenda Scholars program will be an invaluable next step for me to gain firsthand experience and education on how I can eventually use my career as a physician to fight global health disparities and care for underserved individuals and communities both locally and globally,” she added. Roberts is a student at IU School of Medicine-Fort Wayne from Lafayette, Indiana.
Over the past 30 years, more than 1,100 Indiana University medical trainees have visited the AMPATH partnership in Kenya and more than 400 Kenyan trainees have learned alongside their peers in North America. An educational endowment to fund exchange opportunities for Kenyan and IU medical students has been established to honor the years of service and global impact of Bob and Lea Anne Einterz.
Roop’s long-term goal is a career in global health with a focus on maternal-fetal medicine or women's health and her time in Kenya will incorporate some of these interests. As an undergraduate, she completed a research project to analyze menstrual management practices and reproductive infection prevalence of school-aged girls in rural Kenya. “I find women's health and its impacts to be both fascinating and essential to improving long-term community health,” she said. “The Slemenda Scholars Program will allow me to gain clinical research experience, but also expose me to global health careers and how this work takes shape in communities,” said Roop, who earned a biochemistry degree from IU Bloomington. The Carmel native studies at IU School of Medicine in Indianapolis.
Other unique global health opportunities at IU include a Global Health Residency Pathway available to medical residents in a variety of disciplines, monthly Global Health Research Speaker Series and Global Health Scholars Day.