Q&A with Dr. Rhonda McIntyre


RUSM and Chamberlain College of Nursing (CCN) students recently returned from a two-week elective clerkship that took place in underserved communities in Nairobi, Kenya. Rhonda McIntyre, MD, director of the International Interdisciplinary Elective Program, discussed the importance of international electives and how a student’s educational experience is enhanced by them.

RUSM: What is the purpose of international interdisciplinary clerkships? 

McIntyre: Beyond promoting health and disease prevention to underserved communities, we want students to understand the importance of working as part of a team in healthcare. The multidisciplinary team consisted of RUSM and CCN students, two supervising physicians, nurses, and in this case, a dentist.

Also, students gain greater knowledge about tropical diseases and travel medicine, as well as acquire knowledge of working among people from different backgrounds and cultures.

: How many students were selected and what qualifications were you seeking in an applicant?

McIntyre: Five students were selected for the elective. Students who completed two core rotations (preferably in internal medicine, family medicine, surgery or pediatrics) or had some clinical exposure were strongly considered. Personal statements were also a factor in selecting students. Some knowledge of the native language is an asset, but not a requirement as we retain interpreters for the program.

: What value do students receive from participating in an international clerkship?

McIntyre: Our students often participate in service oriented electives, but an international clerkship in a developing country goes beyond community service. A clerkship, like the one in Kenya, can affirm one’s decision to becoming a doctor. The unfamiliar and rigorous conditions foster some introspection. What students learn about themselves and the profession is invaluable. In many cases, students gain sensitivity to other cultures and discover and develop the compassionate aspect of medicine. Their attitudes and perspectives of others are forever changed.

Additionally, students become more decisive in making diagnoses and understand better the importance of clinical exams. They have to rely strongly on clinical skills in this setting due to the absence of lab or supporting services.

: What is the benefit of partnering with CCN?

McIntyre: To become a successful physician, students must learn to develop the team approach and appreciate the roles of other professionals from different disciplines. RUSM students who participated in this elective have a better understanding of a multidisciplinary team approach.

: Is there another international interdisciplinary clerkship planned? If so, then when?

McIntyre: We will be partnering with CCN again to conduct two to three international trips next year. There is one planned for the Philippines in January and two others in Kenya later in the year.