As migrants from the Middle East and war-torn parts of Africa continue seeking refuge in Europe, many of those who journey across the Mediterranean Sea or through Turkey land in Greece, where an increasingly privatized healthcare model struggles to meet the refugees’ needs. This May, students in The University of Tulsa’s International Healthcare Delivery course traveled to Greece to learn about that country’s health care system through observation, volunteer work and experiencing the culture firsthand.
A critical aspect of the course is assessing how Greek institutions adjust and adapt to fill gaps in the health care system. Ella Borrowman, who received her bachelor’s degree in nursing in May, believes her experiences there hold educational value beyond that which can be gained in a classroom.
“Seeing how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operate first-hand was very eye opening,” Borrowman said. “You can’t learn everything from books. The experiences I had reinforced the things I learned in my classes at TU and reminded me of why I wanted to work in healthcare to begin with!”
Along with the iconic buildings, landscapes and historical sites that Athens has to offer, the ancient capital was the perfect place for students to learn how various factors influence the design and functionality of the Greek health care system.
“Greece is a beautiful travel location, but it also has a very interesting health care system, which was the focus of the class,” Borrowman said. “The economics, politics, and refugees of Greece challenge the health care system, and watching how different NGOs flexed their services to meet the countries needs taught us about problem solving within health care.”
Seeing how political and economic issues affected health care delivery was especially valuable for exercise and sports science junior Rachel Ward. Working toward a career in health care, she left Athens with a deeper understanding of the world of health care and immense appreciation for Greek culture and the country’s remarkable history.
“Studying abroad in Athens was a life-changing experience that expanded my horizons, enriched my cultural awareness, enhanced my knowledge as a future health care professional and contributed to my personal growth,” she said. “Athens offered a captivating blend of modernism and historical sites, from the ancient ruins to the vibrant cityscape.”
During their time in Athens, students observed doctors and spent time with children at refugee shelters. As most of the immigrants are refugees and asylum seekers, many children arrive unaccompanied or are separated from their parents in the immigration process. For Ward, having the opportunity to interact with doctors and volunteer at shelters was vital to understanding the demands of a country’s health care system.
“Through this program, our class had the opportunity to shadow various physicians specializing in pediatrics, ophthalmology, and gynecology. All the doctors we shadowed were friendly and willing to answer any medical-related questions we had,” she said. “Additionally, we had the chance to volunteer at an unaccompanied minors’ shelter in Athens, where we interacted and actively engaged with children who had experienced unimaginable events of war and tragedy.”
Courses like International Healthcare Delivery, offered through TU’s Oxley College for Health & Natural Sciences, allow students to make connections between the material they studied in class and its real-world application. Although neither Ward nor Borrowman envisioned themselves going abroad, they strongly encourage students to visit the Center for Global Engagement and learn about the incredible range of study-abroad opportunities available.
“If you have no clue where to start, just make an appointment at the Global Engagement office, and they help you find the perfect global experience,” Borrowman said. “For example, I didn’t think I would get to go anywhere because I am a nursing major, and I have classes required on campus at TU every semester, but they were still able to help me! There are also scholarships available.”
More information is available at global.utulsa.edu.