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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Teleconference exposes UA students to international medicine

    The UA is taking its medical education to an international level.

    Several students from the UA College of Medicine are participating in an international videoconference with medical students from Kosovo, the first such conference since the country declared its independence in February.

    The virtual conference marked collaboration between the Arizona Telemedicine Program and the Telemedicine Program of Kosovo, two top-ranking programs in the world of telemedicine, a form of telecommunication technology to serve patients, as well as bring information to health care providers across the globe.

    Dr. Marlys H. Witte, UA professor of surgery and Dr. Rifat Latifi, director and founder of the Telemedicine Program in Kosovo, led the conference from the College of Medicine.

    The conference was broadcast in Prishtina, the capital of The Republic of Kosovo, where over 75 medical students and physicians looked on while five UA students presented projects carried out while in the Medical Student Research Program headed by Witte.

    Witte’s contribution to the conference was in the realm of what she called “”ignoramics,”” a concept geared in promoting more questioning among those in the medical profession and in hospitals she finds “”filled with ignorance as well as knowledge.””

    “”Its all about questions instead of answers,”” Witte said. “”When you think about medicine, you think of giving answers, but it’s also about finding good questions and improving things.””

    Among the students participating in the conference was Drew Kurtzman, a UA 1st-year doctoral medical student. Kurtzman is no stranger to ground-breaking medical procedures. His work with translational research alongside Dr. Daruka Mehadavan resulted in finding a new combination of drugs that could be used to treat gastrointestinal stromal tumors with noticeably less side effects.

    The conference gave Kurtzman the opportunity to appreciate the global appeal of the telemedicine program, something he was previously unfamiliar with, he said.

    “”They are using it to train students who have limited access to hospitals and don’t have as many resources as us,”” Kurtzman said. “”So it is good for sharing info and also for them to learn how to become a physician.””

    Latifi started the Telemedicine Program in Kosovo when he returned to his home country seeking a way to better transfer medical assistance to thousands of refugees and others he saw suffering in the war-torn Balkan states, Latifi said.

    Following a series of presentations given by Latifi illustrating the aftermath of ethnic and political turmoil that left the area void of satisfactory health care professionals and institutions, his dream materialized with enough funding in line to start what he entitled the “”International Virtual e-Hospital”” in Kosovo.

    While the experience was primarily an educational one for participating students, they also appreciate the historical significance of the program, said Nataliya Biskup, a 2nd-year doctoral medical student.

    “”It was kind of strange to be able to be communicating halfway around the world,”” Biskup said, “”but the potential is really amazing.””

    Biskup presented her development of a rotary that can be used to remove plaque from arteries that block blood flow and cause coronary artery disease.

    In the future, Latifi hopes to be able to interact more internationally, expanding the telemedicine program at the UA and making it more common for students and professionals to consult with clinicians worldwide on a regular basis.

    “”Students and faculty will have tremendous benefits with exposure,”” Latifi said. “”It will build bridges with other schools around the world.””

    In Kosovo and other similar countries, students learn mostly by observation, something Latifi would like to see change with more integration.

    Biskup said her participation in the teleconference played on her interests in international medicine and made it clear that telemedicine “”makes communication easier with people we probably wouldn’t have heard from or have been exposed to.””

    Witte said the example students set with Kosovo is significant, and in the future, both parties will be able to do research and ask questions with more of an interchange.

    “”This is just the beginning of an adventure to expand,”” Witte said. “”This was set up as a prototype with other countries focusing on medical students and also having an exchange that’s physical as well as intellectual.””

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