AAAS undergrads traveled throughout Asia this summer to study the languages and cultures of Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan, Cambodia, and Vietnam. One of the highlights of our summer study abroad programs was a three-week public health education mission to Cambodia (June 17-July 8), which incorporated some cultural and business components.
A/ST 490 was a joint effort with MESH (Medical Experience Through Service in Healthcare), a student organization at UCLA, and Cambodian-American students from CSU Long Beach. Nine students from UCLA and CSULB joined with seven students (pre-med, dentistry, pharmacology) from several universities in Phnom Penh— under the supervision of two advisers, a dentist and psychiatrist—to deliver health education presentations and some services to several thousand Cambodians, mostly rural farmers and plantation workers, through seven provinces of Cambodia. Home base was Phnom Penh.
Part of the learning process for AST 490 required students to visit various public and private hospitals and clinics to see the range of service provision in medical facilities regarding sanitation and patient care. Conditions varied dramatically throughout the country. In some hospitals, patients were situated in corridors or on the floor, often in crowded or unsanitary conditions. The pubic hospitals we visited were seriously understaffed, often without adequately trained nurses, modern surgical or dental equipment.
A very meaningful aspect of this program for students was the cultural exchange between U.S. and Cambodian students. They worked together on various projects, translation, and presentations over this three-week period. It was an effective way to develop a deeper cross-cultural experience through shared interests based on age and educational interests. All participants agreed it was a transformative experience. The American students in the course produced a handbook of short presentations on disease prevention and public health, now being translated by their Cambodian counterparts in Phnom Penh.
Special recognition to Instructor Teri Tan for her logistical power on this trip and for all the donations she received from various companies and medical doctors, including the LN-4 hand donations.