BMS Learning Experience to Estonia and Finland



Name: Browning Haynes

Type of Project: Education Abroad

1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

The BMS Learning Experience to Finland and Estonia was from March 7th, 2018 through March 17th, 2018 and took us to Tallinn & Tartu, Estonia, and Helsinki, Finland. The BMS Learning Experience to Estonia exposed me and the other students to a healthcare delivery system different to that of the United States, how science/medical education is taught in a foreign country, and Finnish and Estonian history (which includes Estonia being a former member of the Soviet Union).

2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

This learning experience to Estonia and Finland expanded my view of the world by exposing me to a completely different culture in Europe. I have only ever traveled to Western European countries such as England, Ireland, Wales, France, Belgium, etc. Estonia was a part of the Soviet Union for an extremely long time and part of that culture still lingers. I have a slightly negative perception of Russia because of the current political climate in the U.S., so it was interesting to see what “Soviet Union culture” really looks like and how much it still influences their everyday lifestyle. Regardless, I had extremely little knowledge of Russian or Eastern European culture, so I learned a great deal throughout this trip about their history and culture. In the context of healthcare, I learned more about the health policy of both Estonia and Finland and the values that influence the way in which health care is provided. Finally, from my classes, I learned that both countries promote more preventative medicine which has extremely long-term benefits on population health. It was interesting to see the general lifestyle of the population, understand how this impacts population health, and compare/contrast them with the U.S. healthcare system.

3. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

In Estonia, we participated in several historical tours of the city that educated us on both the short history of Estonia as an independent country, but also the much longer history of Estonia as a Soviet country. More specifically, our itinerary included a tour of the Old Town, two tours of KGB museums, a visit to a working pharmacy, and a meeting with the U.S. ambassador. These experiences provided much detail on both the general history of Estonia as well as insight into the history of healthcare in Estonia. We learned most about the current healthcare system from the U.S. ambassador through his personal interactions with Estonian healthcare.

In Tartu, we had a tour of the university and spoke with some American students who are studying there. They provided additional insight into the everyday lifestyle of Estonians and how that compares to the U.S. lifestyle. They specifically discussed how the culture and language differences affected their difficult transition from the U.S.

Finally, in Helsinki, we participated in several cultural experiences including tasting traditional Finnish food, visiting Suomenlinna as well as several notable cathedrals, and completing the trip with a jump in the Baltic Sea. The difference between Finland and Estonia was apparent as soon as we entered the country. Helsinki, in my opinion, is more similar to an American city than Tallinn or Tartu in Estonia. However, I appreciated how Helsinki has modernized while at the same time maintaining its historical streets and buildings.

4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

After graduation, I intend to matriculate into medical school and continue along the path to becoming a physician. In addition to attaining my Doctorate in Medicine, I aspire to attain a Master’s degree in Public Health (MPH). As a prospective physician, this program was a wonderful connection between my pre-medicine track and my minor, global public health. Participation in this study abroad program not only provided me with more insight into global health care systems and the impact of their health care workers, but also enhanced my confidence to pursue international medicine. This program offered countless unique ways to do so including witnessing foreign medicine in practice and understanding the struggles/successes of another country’s health care system. I believe that taking the time to achieve an MPH will provide me with the skills and knowledge to be a more well-rounded and open-minded physician in the future. Additionally, using both of these degrees, I hope to incorporate some international work into my career either through Doctors Without Borders or some other international third-party organization. As a result of completing the education abroad program, I gained exposure to the healthcare systems of Estonia and Finland and learned the healthcare needs of Estonian and Finnish citizens. In addition, after speaking with the U.S. ambassador, I am now more aware of opportunities to work with the foreign service as a physician in the future. In sum, this experience has provided me a valuable perspective as I progress forward in my educational career and will help as I decide which career path to take.