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IUPUI physician assistant students start three-week clinical rotation in Republic of Congo



INDIANAPOLIS — Two Indiana University School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences physician assistant students have departed for the Republic of Congo for a three-week clinical rotation at a hospital where medical care is in short supply. They will return April 14.

Pioneer Christian Hospital, where Stephanie Inman and Kara Kinsley will work, is a 50-bed hospital with 30 buildings on a 17-acre campus, on the northern edge of the town of Impfondo. The hospital has male, female, pediatric, surgical and maternity wards as well as an outpatient clinic and emergency care department. The hospital was founded by American doctors responding to shortages of medical providers and facilities.

Members of the inaugural Master of Physician Assistant Studies class who will graduate in May, the students collaborated with Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief agency, and the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Office of International Affairs for more than a year to arrange the trip.

The biggest worry for the students and IUPUI was the threat of the Ebola virus; however, travel warnings were removed late last year with the containment of the virus.

To prepare for the Congo trip, which Inman and Kinsley hope will be the start of international medical mission careers, they took a short trip last year to El Salvador. They set up a clinic with Global Health Outreach for five days at a church in Santa Ana. 

The Congo trip began as an attempt to find a unique place in the world experiencing medical shortages, and they quickly identified the Congo as an opportunity where they could make a difference, the students said.

 “It’s a chance to learn how to treat patients with limited resources and be creative with medicine,” Inman said.

The hardest part of their journey is knowing that they will have patients who can’t be helped. They were cautioned that they would see patients die from illnesses that are easily treated in the United States.

“In my journey into the world of medicine, I’ve learned how to care for and treat patients,” Kinsley said.  “The medical field presents an opportunity to care for and show compassion toward a multitude of people, many of whom are in areas of desperate need. This is why I choose to serve internationally. It is also why I am so excited for the opportunity to serve, learn and grow with the people of Congo at Pioneer Mission Hospital.”

The IU School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences is on the IUPUI campus in downtown Indianapolis and houses five major health science programs: health sciences, nutrition and dietetics, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and physician assistant studies. Current research labs within the school include the Center for Translational Musculoskeletal Research, Indiana Center for Advanced Neurorehabilitation, Motion Analysis and Biomechanics Research Lab, Bone Physiology Lab, Pulmonary Physiology Lab, Community Mobility and Participation in Society, Human Structure & Function Lab, Rehabilitation & Integrative Therapy Lab, Silver Hoosiers Health and Aging Research Lab, and Driving Safety and Rehabilitation Research Lab.