An international, multidisciplinary, service- learning program: An option in the dental school curriculum

E. A. Martinez-Mier, A. E. Soto-Rojas, S. M. Stelzner, D. E. Lorant, M. E. Riner, K. M. Yoder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Introduction: Many health professions students who treat Spanish-speaking patients in the United States have little concept of their culture and health related traditions. The lack of understanding of these concepts may constitute major barriers to healthcare for these patients. International service-learning experiences allow students to work directly in communities from which patients immigrate and, as a result, students gain a better understanding of these barriers. Objective: This article describes the implementation of an international, multidisciplinary, service-learning program in a dental school in the United States. Program Description: The Indiana University International Service-Learning program in Hidalgo, Mexico began in 1999 as an alternative spring break travel and clinical experience for medical students, focusing on the treatment of acute health problems. Travel-related preparatory sessions were offered, and no learning or service objectives had been developed. The program has evolved to include a multidisciplinary team of dental, medical, nursing, public health and social work students and faculty. The experience is now integrated into a curriculum based on the service-learning model that allows students to use their clinical skills in real-life situations and provides structured time for reflection. The program aims to enhance teaching and foster civic responsibility in explicit partnership with the community. Preparatory sessions have evolved into a multidisciplinary graduate level course with defined learning and service objectives. Program Evaluation Methods: In order to assess the program's operation as perceived by students and faculty and to evaluate student's perceptions of learning outcomes, evaluation tools were developed. These tools included student and faculty evaluation questionnaires, experiential learning journals, and a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis. Findings: Evaluation data show that after program participation, students perceived an increase in their cultural awareness, crosscultural communication skills and understanding of barriers and disparities faced by Latinos in the United States. Faculty evaluations offer insights into the lessons learned through the implementation process. Conclusion: The development of a service-learning based curriculum has posed challenges but has enriched international service Experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalEducation for Health: Change in Learning and Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Dental education
  • Educational models
  • International education exchange
  • Service-learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Education

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