By Wendy Sarubbi | July 19, 2013 11:42 am

UCF College of Medicine’s husband-wife faculty team of Drs. Juan and Judy Simms-Cendan traveled to Ethiopia recently to begin a partnership that will help create a new medical school in that African country.

Dr. Cendan, associate professor of surgery, is assistant dean of simulation at the College of Medicine and runs the medical school’s Clinical Skills and Simulation Center. Dr. Simms-Cendan is associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of international experiences.

They helped UCF form a partnership with the MyungSung Medical School, a private school sponsored by the Korean Presbyterian Church, which has also built an adjacent hospital complex. The medical school enrolled its first class of 23 students this year. The students are high school graduates who matriculate directly into medical school. Most were born in Ethiopia, which has only one doctor for every 150,000 people and where 90 percent of the population works as subsistence farmers. There, residents plow their fields with oxen; an ambulance is small litter people carry on their backs to transport an ill or injured patient.

“We were really floored at how far behind rural Ethiopia is in its development and infrastructure, which was profoundly affected by the communist control of the country (from 1974-1991),” Dr. Simms-Cendan said. “That control inhibited entrepreneurship and development. There is a new government commitment to increasing the number of medical schools and improving medical education. You’re seeing a resurgent interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and a re-investment in the country. This partnership can help us share what we’ve learned in creating a new medical school from the ground up.”

The Cendans provided the MyungSung Medical School with a variety of materials on curriculum development, use of new technology, medical school leadership structures and committees, faculty development and assessment tools. Dr. Cendan designed an online question-based database for the medical school and assisted in a liver resection for a 3-year-old child at its hospital. Dr. Simms-Cendan hopes to teach at MyungSung Medical School in the spring and is working to make the location an international site for students’ elective clerkship training.

“My aspiration has always been to help improve medical education on a global scale, especially in developing countries,” she said. “Ultimately, this partnership will help us see how our delivery of a medical curriculum translates and whether we can have a global impact on improving medical education.”

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