Connecting Health and Culture

Penn State Health and Human Development students observed health care and visited the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines.

Penn State students visiting the Philippines to observe its health care system also had the unique opportunity to advise Filipino high school students on how to be successful at an American university during a presentation at the U.S. Embassy.

Students recently spent ten days in the Philippines as part of the course Health and Health Systems in the Philippines, offered through the Department of Health Policy and Administration in the College of Health and Human Development. The course allows students to explore contemporary issues related to health and health systems in the Philippines through intensive field experience, including visiting public and private hospitals.

Officials also invited students to visit the U.S. Embassy in the capital city of Manila where they participated in a roundtable discussion about biosecurity and then offered insight to high school students on successful time management in college as part of the embassy’s EducationUSA Enrichment Series.

“I really enjoyed touring the embassy and discussing with the foreign officers their experience working at the embassy. It was really interesting to hear them articulate their day-to-day routine and how that affects policy in the Philippines,” said student Matthew Quillen.

“On top of that, our open forum discussion with high school students concerning day-to-day life as a college student in the United States was awesome. We not only were able to give them insight into our academic life, but also indirectly learned a lot about their lives as high school students in the Philippines.”

Students speak at embassy

Students at U.S. Embassy in Manila

Officials invited students to visit the U.S. Embassy in the capital city of Manila where they offered insight to Filipino high school students on successful time management in college as part of the embassy’s EducationUSA Enrichment Series.

Image: U.S. Embassy - Philippines

Students also visited three hospitals: St. Paul’s Hospital, a Catholic, private facility in Iloilo; Asian Hospital and Medical Center, a private hospital in Manila; and Philippines General Hospital (PGH), a public hospital in Manila.

Visiting the facilities helped solidify student Lisa Tzanakis’ goal to work in a hospital environment. The experience also made Tzanakis appreciate the overall quality of medical facilities in the United States.

“In PGH, there were two emergency rooms — one for paying patients and one for everyone else. The disparity within this hospital for paying and non-paying patients is something that really tested my morals,” Tzanakis said. “I really appreciate the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act that is in place in America because everyone deserves a level of human care and compassion.”

“The goal is for students to understand the health of Filipino citizens and compare, in an in-depth way, the United States and Filipino health systems.”—Caprice Knapp

For student Rachel Farnin, a visit to a leprosy clinic had a lasting impact. There, students talked with patients at their bedside and offered them snacks.

“Some shared their stories about how they have been cured of leprosy for many years but still lived there. The cultural perspective of leprosy in the Philippines is that it is an extremely shameful disease,” Farnin said.

“These patients at the clinic were deserted by their families and are now outcast from society. This really hit hard for me. With no money or family to take them in, they were stuck there.”

With the goal of becoming a physician assistant, Farnin said she wants to provide equal health care to patients with diverse backgrounds.

Students immerse themselves within the Filipino culture as a part of the course, Health and Health Systems in the Philippines.

Students working in community

Students immerse themselves within the Filipino culture as a part of the course, Health and Health Systems in the Philippines.

Image: Penn State

“My trip to the Philippines and the leprosy clinic reminded me that all people deserve a basic amount of care,” Farnin said.

Research Associate Professor Caprice Knapp said the goal of the course is to immerse students within another health care system in order to provide them with a broader understanding of international health care. In addition to the Philippines’ health care system, students study health policies and initiatives and gain a cultural and historical perspective of the Philippines.

“The goal is for students to understand the health of Filipino citizens and compare, in an in-depth way, the United States and Filipino health systems,” Knapp said.

“Upon return to the United States, students reflect on what they learned and how it has affected their perspectives on health in a developing country, their own cultural identity and their career goals.”

St. Paul’s University in Iloilo and the University of the Philippines at Manila hosted Penn State students during their visit.