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Nepal International Elective

by Kathy Pedersen

Greeted as we arrived in Pokhara, Nepal - Dr. Richard Backman spoke several phrases in perfect Nepali, evidence of both his facility for language and his institution of a Nepali language and culture class as part of the Nepal student elective. Since becoming lead for the elective after the COVID years, Dr. Backman has created a rich elective, with Pokhara, Nepal as a base. Dr. Backman, the medical director for the PA Division, facilitates clinical medicine, cultural humility, and community engagement aspects of the elective.

Clinical aspects in the 2024 elective involved Gandaki Medical College faculty who practice at the Gandaki Medical Center Teaching Hospital (GMCTH) in Pokhara. UU PA students rotated with Nepali physicians in the Emergency Room, medical intensive care unit (MICU), general surgical and medical inpatient wards, and OB/GYN. Students were exposed to some unusual medical cases, for the US at least, such as tiger attack, organophosphate poisoning, hepatitis due to anti-tuberculosis therapy, and typhus. At the hospital, the students each gave grand rounds presentations on topics particular to Nepal such as snake bites, high altitude sickness COPD, traveler’s diarrhea, and tuberculosis.

The UU PA students also learned about the “landless population”, similar to the US homeless population. Community Engagement activities included health screening for diabetes, hypertension, and preventive dental fluoride treatments at the Manasav Sewa Ashram for “landless people” and the Tibetan settlement in Hemja, Nepal. In addition, PA students with assistance from a Nepali public health nurse and a Tibetan nurse provided menstruation education and reusable menstrual kits using the “Day for Girls” model to young women at the at the Tibetan settlement, distributing a total of 50 kits.

The PA students initiate the elective in Kathmandu, Nepal where they attend cultural aspects on either end of the elective. They visit Thamel and Durbar Square, Kumari House, Swayambhunath (Monkey) Temple, and UNESCO World Heritage sites of Patan, Boudhanath Temple, and Pashupatinath where cremations are performed.

A high point is a several-day trek in the Annapurna Conservation District just outside Pokhara from Ghandruk to Poon Hill to experience the Himalayas.

Nepal Elective