Namibian journalist Shelleygan Petersen spent the morning Thursday at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, along with more than a dozen African journalists visiting the United States on a media tour sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Press Centers.
The journalists came to UTHSC to learn about health care in the United States, as part of a two-day stop in Memphis that included visits to City Hall and the National Civil Rights Museum, as well as time with local journalists.
Petersen said the trip has given her “a new perspective” on the United States and exposure to ideas that are relevant for her country.
Denis Foretia, MD, MPH, MBA, FACS, director of the UTHSC Center for Multicultural and Global Health (CMGH), served as host to the contingent from Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Zambia, Lesotho (South Africa), Liberia, Burundi, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Mozambique, Equatorial Guinea, The Gambia, and Namibia. UTHSC Chancellor Peter Buckley, MD, welcomed the group.
Dr. Foretia, an assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at UTHSC, is also a leader in the Global Surgery Institute. He was joined by Ugochi Ogu, MD, an associate professor of medicine at UTHSC and the medical director of the Diggs-Kraus Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center at Regional One Health; and Chinelo Animalu, MD, an associate professor in the Department of Infectious Diseases at UTHSC. The three physicians are originally from Africa and spoke eloquently of their continued connection to their home country, as well as their dedication to help patients in Memphis and Tennessee.
The Center for Multicultural and Global Health was born from the passion of faculty and students in the College of Medicine to extend the university’s expertise and impact overseas, and at the same time, bring back experience and knowledge to improve care at home.
Its mission is to cultivate and leverage relationships with institutions in the United States and overseas to expand student, resident, and faculty access to multicultural health care delivery; address global health challenges; and train global health care leaders.
The center grew from experience gained through the College of Medicine’s Global Surgery Institute founded in 2018 to support surgical mission work that was being done across specialties, assist surgical residents and students interested in doing mission work, and apply lessons learned about efficient health care around the globe to local delivery of surgical care.
The CMGH has established primary international partnerships with Levy Mwanawasa Medical University in Zambia and Ben-Gurion University of Negev in Israel. It also hosts an annual Multicultural and Global Health Symposium and a journal club with students. Additionally, the Global Surgery Institute has promoted surgical mission work in countries, including the Philippines, Honduras, Tanzania, Zambia, and Peru.
The State Department tour, from July 23–August 2, is a follow-up to the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington in December 2022. The journalists are visiting Washington D.C., Memphis, and Missoula, Montana, to see different types of U.S. cities.
“It’s been quite interesting,” said Alieu Ceesay, a journalist from The Gambia. “It is helping us to better understand about the United States. I believe there is a lot African universities can learn from this university to better improve health delivery.”
While at UTHSC, the journalists toured the Center for Healthcare Improvement and Patient Simulation with Executive Director Tara Lemoine, DO, and Simulation Educationalist Sophia Mosher, MPA. The journalists discussed how health care simulation could apply to the delivery of care in their countries.
The visiting journalists were thoroughly impressed and inspired by your presentations of medical services as civic engagement,” Najlaa Abdus-Samad with the U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Center wrote after the stop at UTHSC. “The conversation about bilateralism in international partnerships, deconstructing the idea of brain drain (from Africa), and the exploration of diaspora contributions was illuminating. You gave us more than we could have ever asked for.”