Claire Manneh, 2012-2013, Oman (in green) interviewing clinicians at Royal Hospital in Muscat on their experiences using the electronic medical record system
“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
Although I haven’t extensively trekked the globe like Ibn Battuta, the Medieval Berber traveler and scholar, nor can I retell stories like he did, I was indeed left speechless during my Fulbright U.S. Student grant to the Sultanate of Oman. I hadn’t come to realize how Fulbright was going to change my life until I was sitting on a one-way flight from San Francisco to Muscat.
Before that plane ride to Muscat, I was consulting with a team to transform a national healthcare system’s electronic health record (EHR) from a legacy to an updated system. The process was painful and lengthy, but the system’s executives were committed to transforming their practice. No different than the United States, Oman’s road to transforming health care delivery is happening at a rapid speed and I planned my Fulbright research to study their EHRs. After surveying and observing over 300 clinicians and patients in Oman, I found that their processes were not unfamiliar. Interoperability does not discriminate – Oman suffers from the same challenges we experience here in the United States. It was common for my study participants who had not visited the U.S. to think that Americans had easy access to health care, which patient records were transferable, and that clinicians can do sophisticated searches on a specific population within a database. The participants took comfort in knowing that a country they look up to in many ways, the U.S., was in the same boat.
Ahmed Alsuleimani, 2013-2014 Fulbright FLTA from Oman, enjoying the snow in Lansing, Michigan during his Fulbright FLTA grant and the desert back home in Oman
I am from an Arab gulf country called Oman and I spent nine months at Michigan State University as a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) teaching Arabic. Michigan was one of the most magnificent places I have ever lived in. Many might know something about my culture having to do with oil and camels. As a Fulbright FLTA, my role was to help educate people I met and worked with about Oman, a very exciting and challenging task.
Changing ideas and stereotypes about my culture was an important responsibility during my Fulbright FLTA grant, and did this by participating in open discussions and through language lessons, which I enjoyed a great deal. When I arrived, I initially went through a difficult time and had some tough decisions to make in order to pursue my grant. The media had given me an unclear message about the United States, but I was shocked by what I actually saw after I settled in. I experienced a completely different environment, culture and lifestyle than what I’d learned through Hollywood movies and the news. I traveled around the country and talked to many Americans in and outside of Michigan State University to develop a better understanding about their lives. I’ve since learned that there is a huge difference between the U.S. portrayed in television and movies, and the real America.