The Rush University Belize Immersion Experience program, also known as RUBIE, is an interdisciplinary, international immersion experience offered to students enrolled at Rush. An initiative of the Student Nursing Association, the first Belize service project was organized in 1999. In 2004 a partnership began with Hand in Hand Ministries, an international organization that transforms lives by sharing life’s essentials with the poor. During the fall annual trip, Rush faculty, staff and students build a home for a family in Belize and provide preventive health care seminars to the community. The RUBIE interdisciplinary team includes ten Rush students and up to four faculty advisors.
In 2005 a group of volunteers in various clinical specialties formed a partnership between the community of Peralta, Dominican Republic. In 2010, a similar partnership was formed in several communities in urban and suburban Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The stated mission is to provide man-power, supplies, medications, training and encouragement to communities with the goal of assisting these communities to become empowered and positioned to offer independent and sustainable care.
Currently ther are eight to 10 trips a year, providing services in primary care, general surgery, urology, urogynecology and ENT/plastics. Teams are comprised of attending staff, residents, medical students, pharmacists, physical therapists, nurse practitioners, PAs, psychotherapists, RNs and support staff. In addition to clinical work, Rush volunteers have also been involved in development of water purification and distribution in Peralta, revenue from which supports operations in our partner clinic.
While all efforts have historically been provided on a strictly volunteer basis, the program has grown sizably over the past eight years, to currently include over 100 participants on an annual basis. It has been governed by a volunteer board, and funded primarily through outside philanthropic support, including an annual art benefit, The Art For Haiti event. In 2013, the Department of Medicine appointed a Section of Global Health, through which this program will continue to be administered and developed, with formal institutional support and structure. The section will also be offering global health fellowships, and a global health internal medicine residency track.
The relationship between the Rush volunteers and the local communities is supported by the Del Camino/Endeavor organization. This organization fundamentally believes in the work, and provides valuable insight into the cultural aspects/relationship development that is critical to the success of the program.