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Medical and dental freshmen immerse themselves in El Paso culture while sharpening clinical skills in Spanish

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press release

Aug 16, 2022 11:00 EDT

200 first-year students from Foster Medical College and Hunt Dental College experienced a “poverty simulation” as part of an educational workshop at the Texas Tech University Health Science Center El Paso.

The simulation included several role-playing scenarios, such as visiting a pawn shop to sell personal property for grocery money or going to a payday loan provider to survive until your next paycheck. The experience helped students better understand what the 18.8% of El Pasoans living in poverty face on an almost daily basis. As you can imagine, poverty is a major obstacle to routine health and dental care.

This simulation was an innovative addition to the Social, Community, and Individual (SCI) course taken by TTUHSC El Paso medical and dental students, informally known as “Immersion,” this July. School students begin their academic journey by immersing themselves in the unique lifestyle, culture and language of the El Paso Juarez Borderplex community. About 40% of the students at the Hunt School of Dental Medicine and his 20% of the students at the Foster School of Medicine are from El Paso or western Texas counties with cultures similar to the Borderplex.

The Immersion Course – SCI and Conversational/Clinical Spanish – is the first medical and dental student to complete before studying Medicine and Dentistry in August of “Year One” at TTUHSC El Paso.

Immersion has been part of the medical school’s curriculum since it opened in 2009. The Hunt School of Dental Medicine has adopted Immersion in its curriculum, with the first class completing the course in Summer 2021.

Salma Elwazeer, BDS, MDS, MPH, Assistant Professor of Public Health at Hunt Dental College and director of the dental component at SCI, has driven the integration of poverty simulation into immersion.

“We are helping students understand the reality of poverty,” said Dr. Elwazir. “They are experiencing the hardships and daily challenges of low-income households while interacting with community agencies. changing stigma and inspiring their role as the future of health: healthcare providers becoming local change in the healthcare sector.”

Immersion professors hope to help students better understand the barriers that many unserved patients face in accessing healthcare. For example, lack of transportation delays appointments, low income prevents early treatment, and language barriers hinder communication and assertiveness.

During the immersion, students hit the road to assess the social, health and infrastructure needs of the community.

They visited local neighborhoods, unincorporated communities (colonia), rural towns and cities (Canutillo, Clint, Favens, Horizon City, Montana Vista, San Elizario, Socorro, Sunland Park, New Mexico, Chaparral, etc.) We talked to residents and communities. A leader in community health care needs.

Jessica Hoffman, a first-year medical student from Dallas, Texas, was assigned to visit Chaparral, New Mexico, and interviewed local health care workers and clinic employees.

“It’s the best way to understand how to be a caring, culture-conscious health care provider,” Hoffman said. As health care providers, it is important to understand their needs so that we can expand access and quality care for these populations.”

Organizers said working on your Spanish skills was another beneficial aspect of the immersion.

Studies show that patients with limited English proficiency benefit greatly from bilingual healthcare providers, are more likely to understand diagnoses and treatments, and adhere to medications and routine care.

TTUHSC El Paso is the only health science center on the U.S.-Mexico border, serving 108 historically underserved counties in West Texas. The only health science center on the U.S.-Mexico border and designated as a Title V Hispanic institution, it is developing the next generation of healthcare heroes. 48% of them are Hispanic and often first-generation college students.

Media contact:

Marty Otero maotero@ttuhsc.edu or 915-215-6017

Source: Texas Tech University Health Science Center El Paso

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