Where in the world are MUSC faculty, staff and students?
That was the often raised and not so simple question the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) set about answering this past year. Because of MUSC’s commitment to global engagement, many members of the MUSC community travel overseas to conduct research, attend conferences, participate in service projects and take part in educational activities. But until now, there has not been a simple way to keep track of who is doing what, where. While all travel requires planning, some trips, especially those in challenging locations, demand an extra level of preparation to mitigate risks and arrange for every possibility.
“In the past, information about who is abroad has been fragmented and nonexistent given that members of the MUSC community travel through many different programs offered by various departments across campus,” said Kathleen Ellis, Director of Operations in MUSC Center for Global Health. “Travel registration will help in coordinating a response for MUSC members who may be caught in an international emergency while traveling abroad.”
Now, thanks to the year-long work of a health, safety and security task force formed under the Office of the Provost, university-wide International Travel procedures and policies were developed to ensure MUSC is better positioned to locate and communicate with faculty, staff, trainees and students traveling abroad in the event of a crisis such as a natural disaster, political unrest or a medical emergency.
To better assist university members, MUSC contracted with International SOS, a worldwide leader in global medical assistance and security services, to provide emergency medical, security and travel assistance to those traveling abroad for university-related purposes at no cost to the individual traveler. The International SOS network of specialists operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year from Assistance Centers around the world.
“The International SOS travel/evacuation insurance helps to make me feel safer traveling to an underdeveloped country, and choosing a company that is supported by MUSC makes the entire process more streamlined,” said Sylvia Lee, third year medical student and a member of MUSC Service Learners International (SLI). “The technology on the International SOS website allows MUSC to know exactly where we are and if there are any travel warnings in the area, and this will give my family and I some peace of mind."
The MUSC International Travel Policy requires that any student, trainee, staff or faculty member who is traveling outside the United States on a University-related trip, in a group or as an individual, must register online with International SOS, so that in the case of an emergency, University officials know where the individuals are and how to assist them. Travelers must first create a travel profile, and then he or she can enter an itinerary for each subsequent trip, including length of stay, flights, accommodations, and in-country contacts. The information is accessible only to the University’s emergency responders.
"Anyone who monitors international news knows a crisis can strike at any time,” remarked Ellis. “Registration plays a vital role in our ability to reach out quickly to MUSC travelers who might be in a crisis area and find out whether they are okay and determine what we can do to help them in the short- and long-term. This new procedure will make it more possible to maintain the safety and health of our community.”
The critical reasoning behind registration is to quickly locate faculty, students and staff in case of an emergency. But the benefits of the MUSC/International SOS partnership reaches far beyond that: providing travelers assistance with pre-travel preparations, including detailed destination country reports on culture, security, visa and vaccination requirements, transportation, climate, telephone advice and referrals, lost document assistance, translations up to full-scale evacuation in the event of a medical or security emergency.
“Having International SOS travel insurance gives not only me, but my family and friends staying home the reassurance that someone will be looking out for my team's safety 24/7 as we travel to Haiti,” said Ralitza Peneva, first year medical student and member of SLI.
The MUSC/International SOS partnership, considered a critical component of the university’s comprehensive health and safety protocol program supporting international travel, began January 2014. MUSC travelers can link directly to the new MUSC/International SOS portal to register or learn more about benefits and frequently asked questions or can link to the MUSC Center for Global Health website for more information about international travel policies and procedures.
“Global opportunities, such as international research, collaborations and service-learning, expand cultural understanding to help deepen clinical research skills and knowledge,” Ellis said. “Our goal is to ensure that our MUSC community has a support system in place to feel prepared for any situation.”
- Ensure rapid response in the event of an emergency for increasing numbers of global travelers.
- Proactively communicate travel warnings, policies and alerts.
- Support the institutional commitment to global engagement.