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Exploring How Culture Influences Healthcare Systems by Studying Abroad

A photo of all 8 students who went to Ireland posing in front of the University College Dublin

When studying healthcare systems, it is important to understand how culture can affect a nation’s system – which is why eight students and two faculty in the College of Health Sciences traveled to Dublin, Ireland to learn about several different international health systems in addition to the Irish and compared those to that of the United States.

Kelley Connor, associate professor for the School of Nursing, and Leslie Kendrick, associate professor for the Department of Radiologic Sciences, gathered students from multiple disciplines within the College of Health Sciences to spend a total of two weeks at University College Dublin from June 7 to June 22.

Students and faculty posing outside musuem in Ireland

Students enrolled in Boise State’s Comparative Health Systems in an English Speaking Country course this summer first participated in an online portion of the course to review the structure, funding, and policies of the U.S. health system. The students then finished the course abroad by attending classes alongside 72 other students, all from universities across the United States, to study multiple health systems.

While studying at University College Dublin, students explored World Health Organization standards, reproductive rights, and barriers to accessing healthcare through classroom lectures and Irish health provider’s presentations.

Students posing next to a table while they learn how to make bread

Students attended half day classes four days a week and spent the fifth day on University College Dublin cultural excursions where they would visit educational destinations such as Croke Park and Causey Farm. Within educational excursions, students could learn more about Irish history, culture, and immigration. After classes and on the weekends, students had the opportunity to explore Dublin on their own and visit many destinations throughout Ireland such as Blarney Castle, Cliffs of Moher, Giant’s Causeway, and more. Students additionally got to visit The Book of Kells at Trinity College Dublin, Kilmainham Gaol, and the EPIC Irish Emigration Museum with Connor and Kendrick.

Connor and Kendrick also met with students twice a week to debrief what they had learned. “We had some really good conversations with our group each week,” said Connor. “We talked about how the students could take what they learned in class and correlate it back to our discussions on the U.S. health system. We also talked about what new perspectives they might have formed that were illustrated by the cultural differences.”

“We discussed how students could apply what they were learning to their own discipline,” said Kendrick. “We asked the students as future health care providers, how they could imagine improving access to health care and what approach they would like to see to ensure these improvements. We also discussed what the students could take away from the Irish and other international health systems that could be applied in the U.S. and what potentially may not work due to cultural or political policy differences.”

All eight students who went to Ireland

“During our debriefing sessions, students also had the opportunity to learn from one another,” said Connor. “Having students from numerous disciplines really allowed them to experience interprofessional education as they each shared how within their discipline, they might handle certain situations compared to others.”

College of Health Sciences students who are interested in enrolling in next year’s course for the summer of 2020 can contact Leslie Kendrick at (208) 426-3281 or College of Health Science students interested in study abroad opportunities in Belize, Ghana, or Spain, should contact Kelley Connor at

-By Taylor Music