Overseas teaching grows international reach

Jessie Bekker

Dr. Samara Mimesh was in her sixth year as a dermatologist at the King Fahad Medical City hospital in Saudi Arabia when she heard about a master’s program that would allow her to learn about health care administration from University of Minnesota professors.
 
Two years later, she and 26 of her colleagues came to the United States to celebrate their new degrees.
 
Starting next month, University faculty members will spend two years teaching about 30 Saudi Arabian executive master’s students about the business side of medical care. The program, now in its second year, is part of a larger effort to encourage more global relationships.
 
The four professors will travel to the country in mid-May for a four-day onsite introduction to the coursework. After, they’ll teach the program at the University in an online format identical to the domestic degree program.
 
This year, the school enrolled four to eight more students. The course will provide more information geared toward the Saudi medical system as a result of 
student feedback from the program’s first round, said Tom Gilliam, the administrative director for both programs.
 
The group of faculty members flying to Saudi Arabia next month will teach students about health care policy and the similarities and differences between their health care system and policies in the United States, said Daniel Zismer, director of the MHA and Executive Studies Programs.
 
Faculty members will make a total of four trips to the country. Once the program is over, the Saudi students will come to the United States, Gilliam said.
 
Officials at the Medical City in Saudi Arabia choose physicians from their hospital to participate in the program. Fluent English is a requirement of the program, Gilliam said.
 
The University stipulates that women are included in the pool of participants, he said, and five will partake this year.
 
The program came from a University faculty push for a new international program, Gilliam said.
 
“It provides a much deeper and richer experience for the students … and for our faculty,” he said.
 
Zismer said the program was successful last year, so officials decided to do it again with only a few tweaks.
 
“We knew all along in the first cohort that we liked the relationships that were being formed,” Gilliam said.
 
Mimesh said though she enjoyed the courses, she would have liked to have more face-to-face interactions with her professors.
 
“When I first joined, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect,” she said.
 
She said she wishes there were a greater emphasis on learning about the Saudi health care system and less focus on topics like Medicare and other insurance policies in the United States.
 
Still, Mimesh said the wide variety of topics covered in the classes kept them interesting.
 
“Everything we learned is involved in everything we do,” she said. “It kind of broadens my vision on how to address things.”