Twelve students from the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences traveled to Haiti August 8–18 to help improve global health and leave a useful impact. The service abroad trip kicked off a year in which the university will sponsor 175 acts of service to commemorate its 175th anniversary.

img_7746Physical therapy and occupational therapy students at Murphy Deming partnered with Haitian nursing students to teach them physical therapy techniques. With the guidance of Kai Kennedy, director of clinical education at Murphy Deming, students pushed themselves academically and mentally to get outside of their cultural comfort zone.

“I was looking for a project for the students that had a more sustainable impact,” Kennedy said.

Students taught and assisted nurses and patients in two locations in Haiti, Port-au-Prince and Anse-à-Galets. Kennedy said that the locations chosen were strategic in that each area had vastly different medical set-ups.

Students learned more than just valuable medical experience while abroad. They also came back with a new appreciation for the Haitian lifestyle and culture.

“The media often portrays Haiti as one dimensional,” Kennedy said, noting that some students were apprehensive prior to their visit to the island nation.

Kennedy believes that the trip was powerful and engaging for the students because once they actually experienced Haiti for themselves, all of their pre-conceived notions melted away.

“I had an expectation of Haiti before I went,” said Zach Malpass, a physical therapy student. “It’s portrayed as this poor country with buildings falling down, but we saw more than that. We met great people and it really changed my perception of what Haiti is like.”

Kennedy hopes the trip becomes a yearly opportunity for students. While the students left their mark and expertise in Haiti, they all agree that Haiti left just as much of impact on them.

Faculty-led study abroad programs are on the rise at Mary Baldwin University. Fifty-nine students participated in a trip abroad this past May Term and summer, representing an 80 percent increase from the previous year.