Since 1999, the Columbia University International Family AIDS Program (IFAP) has supported AIDS-focused global health rotations for pediatric residents in La Romana, Dominican Republic (DR). The program is a collaborative effort with Clinica de Familia MIR, a comprehensive family AIDS clinic in La Romana, and financial support is generously provided by the Louis and Rachel Rudin Foundation.
Rotations are designed to provide opportunities to acquire clinical experience caring for HIV-infected children and their families; participate in problem-solving efforts to improve the quality of health care in a resource-poor setting; improve residents’ skills in Spanish language and cross-cultural communication; and facilitate greater insight into the health care needs of Dominican immigrants living in Washington Heights.
Rotations are tailored to the individual interests of each resident, and rotation sites typically include Clínica de Familia MIR (a comprehensive family AIDS clinic), Francisco Gonzalvo Hospital (the major district government hospital in La Roaman), MAMI (a prenatal adolescent care clinic), Centro Médico Central Romana (a sugar cane corporation private hospital), and participation in community-based and rural health outreach efforts.
During their rotation, residents may also participate in ongoing clinical research or service projects in a variety of areas. Previous projects have included a newborn HIV seroprevalence study; identification and reduction of obstacles to prenatal HIV counseling and testing; identifying predictors of adherence to complex regimens of anti-retroviral therapy; field testing taste-masking products to improve the palatability of liquid anti-retrovirals for children; and assessing HIV knowledge and attitudes.
Participants in this program receive on-site and New York-based project supervision. Dr. Stephen Nicholas, the founder and director of IFAP and rotation director, has been working with HIV-infected children in Harlem and Washington Heights since 1983. He was the director of pediatrics at Harlem Hospital 1999-2006. He is currently Professor of Clinical Pediatrics (Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons) and Clinical Population and Family Health (Mailman School of Public Health, Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health), as well as the part-time Assistant Dean for Admissions at P&S. Sabrina Hermosilla, IFAP assistant director, is an MPH/MIA graduate from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and School of International and Public Affairs. DR on-site supervision is provided by Juan Carlos Carazas, MD, MPH, an Assistant Professor of Clinical Population and Family Health (Mailman) and Tobin Abraham, MD, Coordinator of the Dominican Republic International Training and Education Center in La Romana.