For the third year, SEAHEC hosted the Binational Interprofessional Service Learning (BISLE) internship. A collaboration between SEAHEC, the University of Arizona Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health (MEZCOPH,) and community partners, BISLE brought together 29 students from Arizona and Mexico to work in interprofessional-binational teams to learn what it takes to address community health issues collaboratively. Each team was assigned to work at various sites in and around the sister cities of “Ambos Nogales” – Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora. The goal of Interprofessional Service Learning is for students to work together across disciplines, creating a learning experience that fosters diverse professional perspectives. What’s most unique about BISLE’s approach to training health care providers is that students not only work across disciplines, but across borders. It is a strategy that helps students develop skills and qualities valued in both U.S. and Mexican health systems. This year’s students represented fields including medical, public health, veterinary, nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy, psychology and education.
Participating students from the US represented the University of Arizona (UA) colleges of public health, medicine, pharmacy, and nursing. Students from Mexico represented two of Mexico’s largest private universities, Universidad Vizcaya de las Americas (UVA) and Universidad del Valle de Mexico (UVM,) who sent students from their Hermosillo campuses. Universidad Kino, in Hermosillo, Sonora, also participated.
Day one focused on two sites affiliated with the Santa Fe Ranch Foundation in Nogales, AZ. The Santa Fe Ranch is a working ranch outside of Nogales that is “dedicated to advancing agricultural and environmental research and to providing active, hands-on, educational, out-of-doors opportunities to community members.” Much of their work is devoted to connecting children and adults with disabilities to nature. The Santa Cruz Training Program, Inc. (SCTP) is ” a community alternative to state institutions for people with developmental disabilities and their families” in the Santa Cruz County area.
Three interprofessional teams worked at the ranch building wheelchair ramps and created a solar stream and pool demonstration . They also cleared walk-ways in the bird sanctuary. Three more teams worked with SCTP members and staff, participating in daily learning activities, such as sign language. Other students helped put in landscaping and paint railings at SCTP. They also helped clean up the greenhouse. To wrap up the day, students conducted a lesson on relaxation and breathing exercises for SCTP members and staff.
The second day, students crossed the border to work with Nogales Sonora based organizations. Manitas que Hablan I. A. P., (talking hands,) helps support children with hearing loss by teaching them skills for a better quality of life. Albergue para Migrantes (hostel for migrants) San Juan Bosco I.A.P. is part of a network of hostels for people in migration who travel from Central America to the US and are in transit through Mexico. The hostels provide safe temporary housing and other services where people who are often stranded without resources can rest and recuperate. Established in 1982, the hostel in Nogales helps provide food, clothing and shelter for people who have been deported from the United States. At Manitas que Hablan students helped children learn sign language and helped with homework and crafts. Students who went to Albergue San Juan Bosco taught breathing and meditation exercises to guests staying at the hostel and encouraged people to tell their stories of migration through art.
The students ended their day by taking a tour of the medical equipment factory of Arizona Sonora Border Projects for Inclusion (ARSOBO,) a cross border initiative to improve access to low-cost assistive technology and employment for people with disabilities. The organization trains people with disabilities to build assistive equipment and employs them to manufacture all-terrain wheel chairs and prosthetic devices that are distributed throughout the state of Sonora. The final day of the BISLE learning experience was devoted to sharing lessons learned with the community and partners. The students shared what impacted them the most about their service learning activities.