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Nov 18, 2009 1:37 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Kazakhstan students on global tour visit Southampton Hospital

Nov 18, 2009 1:37 PM

Twenty medical students from the nation of Kazakhstan visited Southampton Hospital on Thursday, November 12, for a glimpse at how an American community hospital is run.

The event was part of a tour that included visits to Columbia University Medical Center in Manhattan as well as hospitals in Singapore and Austria. The tour was financed entirely by the Kazakhstan government with the goal of training the next generation of Kazakhstan’s hospital administrators.

As part of the tour, which was organized by Columbia University, the students spent 10 days in New York, from November 8 to 18, learning about the U.S. health care system, hospital operations and financial management techniques. In Southampton for one day, students took a 45-minute tour of the hospital and listened to several hours of lectures by Southampton Hospital staff on topics ranging from marketing to patient care. The students, ages 25 through 35, were a mixture of practicing doctors and medical students training to become hospital administrators in Kazakhstan.

“It has been an interesting challenge trying to explain the American health care system to a bunch of people from Kazakhstan,” Southampton Hospital President Robert Chaloner said.

The students, whose primary languages are Russian and Kazakh, all spoke some level of English. “Their English is a lot better than my Kazakh,” Mr. Chaloner said.

The hospital president said the complexity of the American health insurance system was puzzling to many Kazakhstani students. This is 
because Kazakhstan, a former member of the Soviet Union that gained independence in 1991, provides universal health care for all its 15.4 million citizens.

“I was trying to explain to them that we have hundreds of insurance plans and insurance providers ... and I could see that was going right over their heads, because that is not something that they have to worry about over there,” Mr. Chaloner said.

Sitting in Parrish Memorial Hall on Thursday afternoon with laptops and spiral notebooks opened and ready, the students quietly jotted down notes on the lectures. Some even snapped photographs of lecturers with their cell phone cameras.

Adi Demessinov, 25, a urologist from Kazakhstan, said he was impressed by the size and scope of Columbia University Medical Center and struck by how “quiet” and “friendly” Southampton Hospital is by comparison.

“It’s like a home,” Dr. Demessinov said of the local hospital. “The people smile at you. It’s very warm here, it’s very quiet. In New York, there’s a lot of people running around.”

Though the average life expectancy of a United States citizen is about 10 years more than a Kazakhstan citizen, Dr. Demessinov said America could learn something about health care from Kazakhstan.

“In Kazakhstan everyone has access to health care,” Dr. Demessinov said. “In our country, it’s easy. It doesn’t matter what kind of access you need.”

Dr. Demessinov said he hopes America can find a way to insure the more than 40 million Americans who currently live without health insurance.

“I think your government has to insure them because they are citizens,” Dr. Demessinov said. “It shouldn’t matter if they don’t have money.”

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“It has been an interesting challenge trying to explain the American health care system to a bunch of people from Kazakhstan,” Southampton Hospital President Robert Chaloner said.

Hey, maybe he can try explaining it to Americans next.
By btdt (449), water mill on Nov 19, 09 9:54 PM