Alumni News

LUCOM partners with Samaritan’s Purse for residency programs abroad

January 12, 2018 : By Tobi Walsh Laukaitis/Liberty News Service

Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine (LUCOM) has entered a new partnership with Samaritan’s Purse that will place fourth-year students in international rotations with the Boone, N.C.-based Christian humanitarian organization.

LUCOM is the first medical school to be selected by Samaritan’s Purse for this opportunity.

“We are delighted to have this partnership,” said Dr. Lance Plyler, director of world medical mission for Samaritan’s Purse. “Liberty and Samaritan’s Purse are like-minded. We have a lot of the same framework and goals in mind. Medicine is an incredible opportunity to open doors that might otherwise be closed. It’s great to see Christians who are delivering health care with excellence. I love seeing Samaritan’s Purse doing that by developing Christian physicians who are on the cutting edge, practicing with excellence, and having the chance to share their faith.”

The work to set the partnership in motion began last year in what LUCOM’S Director of Medical Outreach and International Medicine James Cook called “a vision from the Lord.”

“The research shows that 70 to 80 percent of clinicians, whether they are physicians or nurse practitioners or patient assistants — even missionaries — if they spend a month or so in an area, they will return to the area,” he said. “Samaritan’s Purse’s philosophy was that it was a win-win-win. It helps our students, it helps the hospitals, and it helps Samaritan’s Purse long term if these clinicians return post-residency to the hospitals.”

Since LUCOM was established four years ago, there has been a focus on creating a pipeline for students into medical missions, whether local, national, or abroad, Cook said.

The rotations are for one month, with Samaritan’s Purse providing transportation and housing. The students will be placed in a hospital where Samaritan’s Purse is already working, and they would be mentored by a doctor.

Over the spring semester, LUCOM will send 14 students to hospitals in Rwanda, Togo, Kenya, Zambia, Guatemala, Bolivia, and the Dominican Republic.

“They can do more things in a country like Kenya, where they can learn hands on, see more pathology, see more despair, see more creativity, and have more faith in a situation than they would in a metropolitan hospital where the ratio of doctor to patients is 1-to-350. They can go to an area where it’s one doctor to 10,000,” Cook said.

For Plyler, that is something that he has experienced firsthand.

“I remember the first time I left the country to practice in a developing country. It’s certainly nothing you can read in a book,” Plyler said. It really helps you to be innovative and think outside the box as a young health care provider because you don’t have all those amenities right at your hand. You really have to be creative. You have to lean on your (patient’s) physical examination and diagnostic skills, as well as lean on your faith because at the end of the day, that’s all you have.”

Samaritan’s Purse’s Assistant Director of International and Campus Relations Stephen Rhoads said the goal is to get students plugged in with what God is doing around the world.

“Our internships are designed to give students the opportunity to really learn and contribute,” Rhoads said. “We want them to dive in and be part of our operations. I think through that process, God works and does something through the lives of our interns.”

Plyler said he hopes to see the program grow and more medical students take advantage of the opportunities to explore medical missions.

“It can just give you a fresh perspective of what most of the world is facing in terms of health care and health care delivery,” he said.

LUCOM has dedicated Office of Medical Outreach and International Medicine to give their student-doctors local and global outreach opportunities. Students regularly participate in one-day clinics for underserved areas of Southside Virginia, and the school has sponsored an annual trip to Guatemala in partnership with Hope of Life International.