As coronavirus spreads across the world, senior Roderich Martinez thinks back to last semester, where he learned about the global response to outbreaks of diseases like tuberculosis.
“Now I’m obviously making connections from that class to the recent news about coronavirus,” says Martinez, an interdisciplinary health services major from Bronx, New York. “Countries with fewer resources to deal with the virus have a higher mortality rate.”
The class Martinez took, “Just Health Care in Developing Nations,” offers Saint Joseph’s students the chance to examine health care access in Philadelphia and Latin America from public health and ethical perspectives. Cross-listed in theology and interdisciplinary health services, the course hones the theological and ethical skills necessary to both perform independent health care research and teaches students how to best articulate their informed positions.
“We took a developing nation model and applied it to the United States, which is quite unique. Usually, it is the ‘first world’ that informs developing nations. We did the opposite,” says Peter Clark, S.J., director of the Institute of Clinical Bioethics, who teaches the course with Ann Marie Jursca Keffer, director of the Faith-Justice Institute. “Students have their notion of health care broadened to see that it’s a global issue. They learn the theoretical and then apply it in a very practical way both here and in a developing country.”
But it’s the softer skills — compassion, patience and empathy — that Martinez and his classmates emphasized taking away from the semester. “It helped me understand how difficult it could be for many physicians who are not truly being prepared in medical school for how to feel compassion, solidarity, and other essential values needed to treat their patients,” he says. “The lack of connection with patients can influence the way physicians treat them.”
“This class challenged the way I thought, how I acted, and how I perceived the world around me,” adds Katherine Battaglia ’21, an interdisciplinary health services major from Baltimore, Maryland. “As someone who tends to be rather shy, it forced me out of my comfort zone and taught me how to speak with confidence, manage and work with a team of other students, defend my answers, and most of all how to be a great advocate and leader.”
Students take the class as a service-learning experience, which incorporates three hours of weekly service into the coursework, or as a study tour, which culminates in 10 days of international travel with University faculty. By design, both sections offer an experiential learning backdrop to deepen, challenge and strengthen students’ understanding of course concepts.