Migration Inter-professional Leading to Action and Growth (MILAGRO) Pilot

Last summer, (2019) SEAHEC and the University of Arizona’s (UA) Health Sciences Center, piloted the first ever inter-professional course to focus on migration. The seven week course, called Migration Inter-professional Leading to Action and Growth (MILAGRO) was a great success, and we have launched a fall course, now in progress, expanded to include twice as many students and participation of the Arizona State University College of Social Work. The fall cohort includes two medical students, one social work student, three public health students, four nursing students and four pharmacy students.

Unique Teaching Strategies

An important element of the course is to place students into inter-professional teams. This means that each team is composed of representatives of all disciplines present in the cohort. This technique exposes students to the perspectives and concepts of other professions in the field, requiring them to share and problem solve together, taking into account the perspectives of different disciplines. Students work in their inter-professional teams to gain real world experience at the community level through volunteering at Casa Alitas.

As part of their learning experience,  students participate in “reflections,” sessions held periodically throughout the course, where students meet to share their learning experience and how it has impacted their approach to practice. The reflections are an integral part of SEAHEC’s student training opportunities strategy, allowing us to gauge the impact of our work, while students share the impact their learning has on their outlook and career plans. During reflections sessions, students often share profound changes in their knowledge and perception of real world health problems, as a result of their community experience. Community experiences, such as those SEAHEC provides, can influence the way health professionals approach practice in their future careers.

Learning How Policy Impacts Lives

As an orientation to the course, students have the opportunity to learn about the history of migration from México and Central America to the United States. The historical overview covers current and previous immigration policies in the United States, including the asylum process.

 “During reflections sessions, we have had students mention that they have talked with families that don’t know where a member is and that they can’t find them in the system. Many times the guests travel in family units but if they are not immediate family they can’t stay together,” continued Ms. Sanchez. “This has made it so that our students are able to see first hand the affects of US and foreign policy and how it affects real lives.” After orientation, students volunteer four hours a week at Casa Alitas, a migrant shelter in Tucson, run by Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona, Inc. They help the staff provide basic services for the Casa Alitas guests. 

From Project to Practice

Finally, each student will work on a group project, the results of which will be implemented at Casa Alitas. Last summer, one group created a call back survey where they gathered information about the resources that Casa Alitas guests (migrants) will need in their final destination location. They used the information to develop a resource guide to the top 10 destination cities for Casa Alitas guests. Another group created a presentation that will be incorporated into Casa Alitas’ volunteer orientation training that covers the history of México and Central America and why people emigrate from those regions to the United States. They also produced a Spanish language video that explains to Casa Alitas guests how to read bus tickets and how to navigate U.S bus travel system. We are looking forward seeing the projects presented at the end of the fall semester, and hearing the students’ reflections. SEAHEC is currently planning another course offering for the spring, 2020 semester.