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Providing international study opportunities to students is a major goal of the University of South Florida and its many Colleges. The College of Behavioral and Community Sciences has added yet another international course to its growing portfolio, this time in the country of Brazil.

Dr. Michelle Bourgeois, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, was approached by then-Chair Dr. Terry Chisolm to create a course with a global focus.  Dr. Bourgeois responded by developing “Global Issues in Communication Sciences and Disorders” with colleague Dr. Deborah Ferrari, a professor of audiology at the Speech Language Pathology and Audiology Department, School of Dentistry of Bauru, University of São Paulo, Brazil. 

The School of Dentistry has close ties with the Hospital for Rehabilitation of Craniofacial Anomalies, also of the University of São Paolo.  The Hospital and the School of Dentistry, together known as the Centrinho, treats thousands of persons with cleft lip and palate and other craniofacial anomalies who come from the most remote regions of Brazil in search of specialized treatment.  The Hospital sees on average 190 patients a day and performs approximately 700 surgeries a month.  In addition, the Centrinho also provides care to an average of 120 patients a day with hearing problems and offers education and rehabilitation programs, including the adaptation of hearing aids, as well as performing over 1300 surgeries for cochlear implants since its inception. 

With state of the art equipment and its innovative programming, the Centrinho provides an excellent living laboratory for students interested in speech-language pathology, audiology, and hearing and speech science.  Dr. Bourgeois’ experiences in Kenya and her involvement with the American Speech Hearing Language Association Special Interest Group Division 17 (Global Issues in Communication Sciences and Related Disorders) prepared her for the challenges in creating such a class. 

Eleven students elected to take the class, and seven were able to make the trip to São Paolo over USF’s spring break.  Dr. Ferrari and her colleagues provided access to the daily practice of the Centrinho. Students observed the operations of the cleft palate program, from the initial visit of babies and their families, surgical treatment, to intensive speech therapy.  They attended lectures and grand rounds by the Centrinho health care team, including speech-language pathologists, audiologists, plastic surgeons, dentists, social workers, and psychologists. USF students also were able to observe the operations of the Cochlear Implant program, CI mapping, hearing aid fittings, the after-school auditory rehabilitation program, and the audiology telehealth services.  A service learning project component to the course allowed the students to work with clients and Brazilian students in the Speech Pathology and Audiology program. 

Dr. Bourgeois and Dr. Howard Goldstein, Associate Dean for Research at the College, also presented and established research partnerships during the trip.  They each gave lectures to the students, families from the community, and professional staff.  In addition to seeing the innovative programming and services the Centrinho offers, they also learned that it takes approximately 30% longer to translate English into Portuguese.  However, the academic and practice issues they learned about were well worth the lag in conversation.

Perhaps the best part of the trip was that the USF undergraduates were able to talk to and interact with graduate students in the field, as well as to have actual, supervised clinical time with patients.  Dr. Bourgeois commented, “it was a wonderful experience to take a group of naïve undergraduates and see them blossom in such a setting.”

Dr. Bourgeois hopes to offer the class again next spring, and is investigating funding supports and other innovative programming that would facilitate partnerships between the US and Brazilian students.

For more detailed information about this course, review the course webpageor contact Dr. Bourgeois at msbourgeois@usf.edu. For more about the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders and its programs, see www.usf.edu/cbcs/csd/.  For more about the Centrinho, see http://www.centrinho.usp.br/.

College of Behavioral & Community Sciences Mark