UNMC Expands International Programs

UNMC expands international programs

Nebraska has large international presence
By Ward Chambers, M.D., executive director of UNMC's International Health and Medical Education program

During the last decade, the international program at UNMC has seen tremendous growth.  This is in concert with University of Nebraska President J.B. Milliken’s emphasis on international relations, as well as Chancellor Harold M. Maurer’s emphasis on international programs.

Nebraska has become a more international state than most people recognize. For example, 84 languages are spoken in the Omaha Public School System. Nebraska has more than 600 businesses which export, and these firms export a total of nearly $6 billion overseas annually.

The governor has made several trips to China for economic activity and the University of Nebraska through its Water for Food program is also expanding into overseas areas.

With this in mind, the international program at UNMC has dramatically increased its scope in the last decade.

We have had a student exchange program for many years, but in recent years the number of student exchanges has grown exponentially.  

One of our more popular international programs is our Latin American experience. This grew out of a desire by students to have an experience where they could practice Spanish and become acquainted with the culture to better treat immigrants who come to Nebraska. This program not only exposes our students to the Latin American culture but also allows us to provide medical care to underserved areas in those regions. 

We currently have a one-month program in Nicaragua that is both language and service-oriented. Over spring break, students have gone to Jamaica, Belize, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. 

On an educational level, our largest program is with China. Under the leadership of Dr. Jialin Zheng, we have created strong programs with the Chinese Scholarship Council in Beijing, Tongji University in Shanghai and Jiaotong University in Xi'an.

We currently have close to 50 Ph.D. students sponsored by the Chinese Scholarship Council who are working in labs in the Durham Research Center towers.

For the first time this year, we have accepted two students from China in the College of Medicine as well as several in the School of Allied Health Professions. In addition, we have exchange programs with both nursing and medical students in Shanghai.

Our next initiative involves the Middle East with the country of Oman. We are in the process of signing an agreement to start a RN to BSN program with an initial cohort of 10 Omani nursing students.

The Omani Undersecretary of Health recently visited the UNMC campus, and we will have visits from the Omani Specialty Board and the Undersecretary of Health in the near future.

We hope to expand this into a large exchange program, as well as a research initiative. Oman has a government-sponsored research program that is similar to the National Institutes of Health here in the U.S.  

We recently had visitors from Turkey and are exploring our research opportunities in India as well.

We hope these efforts will continue to expand our international presence and provide an economic stimulus for Nebraska.