University News

U. improves preparatory care for study abroad

Contributing Writer
Thursday, October 4, 2012

Students planning to study abroad will now receive additional support from the University to help them in their medical preparations. Health Services and the Office of International Programs coordinated to improve treatment checklists and expand the orientation program for students prior to their time abroad.
The most recent changes “were more internal,” said Edward Wheeler, director of Health Services. The treatment set checklist, which reminds medical providers of everything they need to address before a student goes abroad, was initiated last year and has since been improved, Wheeler said.
The treatment set can be accessed by providers through Health Services’ electronic medical records and allows providers to select which vaccinations, medications and areas of advice apply to the specific region to which a student is planning to travel, Wheeler said.
The system primarily serves to fully inform students of “what’s safe, and what isn’t safe,” as well as helping Health Services to stay on track with appointments, Wheeler said.
After working with a provider, students are given educational packets that pertain to the regions in which they will be living. They also receive a card that allows them to access a video about health during their time abroad, Wheeler said.
The new online system has been particularly helpful in scheduling tuberculosis testing, he added. Students must undergo tuberculosis testing before and after traveling to a country where the disease is prevalent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. The new online system “tracks when the post-travel TB test is advised and sends a reminder to the patient,” Wheeler said.
The Office of International Programs has also expanded mandatory orientations for students planning to study abroad to better explain “levels of responsibility” when living in a foreign country, said Kendall Brostuen, director of international programs and associate dean of the College. Being as safe and secure as possible will allow them to “get the most out of the experience,” he added.
“Don’t do things you would never dream of doing here,” Brostuen said. “It can be tempting because you’re in a very different place, but you’re a little more vulnerable too.”
Some of the changes were implemented because Health Services and the OIP found that “it takes a lot of time to prepare someone,” Wheeler said.
“It’s been a priority to expand the orientation and information,” said Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, adding that Health Services and the OIP are “doing their part to make sure they are advancing in our goal.”
The OIP has also been working extensively with the Office of Insurance and Risk to provide all students with both medical insurance and emergency assistance plans, Brostuen said. Five years ago, the office began using International SOS, a travel assistance plan that offers more comprehensive support for students in emergency situations. The program supports students who need to evacuate from a region due to political unrest or who require medical transport after sustaining serious injury, Brostuen said.
International SOS is important for student support because a problem can occur “anywhere, anytime, not just in office hours,” Brostuen said.
The OIP is working to implement additional safety precautions this year, Brostuen said. Currently, OIP encourages students to enter their travel information on International SOS’s tracking system, but the office is working on integrating the tracking system with OIP’s information “for one additional layer of support,” Brostuen said
Another new focus for the office has been tracking and supporting students who may be abroad through programs other than those offered through OIP.
“We’re sending a lot of students abroad, the majority still for a semester or academic year, but a growing number in the summer,” Brostuen said. “More and more students are also going abroad for activities that may not be credit-bearing but are still very valuable.”
Students traveling without OIP affiliation are being supported by the OIP through Sojourn Abroad registration, whose website allows students traveling for shorter periods of time to enter their information, including emergency contacts and the department or organization they are traveling with, to help the office track them.
“If something happens, we get the call,” Brostuen said. “We want to be in the best position to help.”


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