Organization for Tropical Studies

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Home arrow Education arrow Undergraduate Program arrow Global Health arrow Global Health Issues Summer Program in South Africa
Global Health Issues in South Africa Summer Program Print

Summer 2014
Session 1: May 28 - June 27
Session 2: July 11 - Aug 10
Summer 2015
Session 1: May 26 - June 25
Session 2: July 5 - August 4
Download the Undergraduate Program Brochure APPLY NOW     
Curriculum ( PDF document 88 kb )
South Africa Global Health - Orientation packet Summer 2014 ( PDF document 1.13 mb )
South Africa Global Health - Orientation packet Summer 2015 ( PDF document 1 mb )

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Coordinator: Amber Abrams, M.Phil.
Co-Coordinator: James van Hasselt, M.D.

Application Deadline:
March 1st

Tuition: $6,516

OTS selects participants on a rolling basis. Please apply early to be considered.
Applications will no longer be accepted after the program is filled, even if that is before the application deadline.

If you are interested in a summer for which the deadline has already passed, please contact a member of the OTS Enrollment Management Team for availability.

Organization for Tropical Studies Enrollment Management
Duke University
Box 90630
Durham, NC 27708-0630
Tel. (919) 684-5155
Fax. (919) 684-5661
E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it



This course integrates classroom and field instruction to introduce students to the fundamental principles of South African medicine and public health systems.  Students will study topics including infectious diseases, epidemiology, virology and zoonosis, sexual health and reproductive issues, environmental health (vector ecology, water quality, waste management, entomology, toxicology), global health issues (emerging tropical diseases), and traditional and alternative medicine. Students will study current techniques and concerns in South African medicine and public health, analyze the impact of climate change for human health, and analyze the social and economic determinants that contribute to the expanding impact of infectious diseases. Students will learn firsthand about South Africa’s health care system, from the primary care in rural communities to large urban systems.
Visits will include primary health care facilities in rural areas including a homestay in a Venda community in Hamakuya  (west of Kruger National Park). Students will also stay at the Wits Rural Facility, which is a community, supported in part by Witwatersrand University (an OTS consortium institution).  Located just west of Kruger National Park, the community is a model for studies on health care delivery and sustainability. In addition, students will have the opportunity to interview doctors and patients, analyze quarantine programs, conduct field research in biological and environmental areas relevant to human health, and learn how to document a disease-related case study.


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Program Philosophy

The program will focus on three major themes: primary health care in South Africa, the impact of HIV/AIDS, and the role of traditional healers. South Africa is described as an emerging third world economy, and is characterized as a blend of first world and third world societies. It is thus the ideal place to study the dynamics of the three major themes in different settings where we will assess the difference in public health issues in deep rural, peri-urban and urban communities.
  As part of the program, students will be expected to attend lectures and field trips and engage in independent studies. Lectures, which will be provided by the course coordinator and experts, will be conducted in the field as much as possible to provide the best in-field training. Furthermore, site visits have been arranged to best compliment the lecture material so that students get the best possible practical experience to support the theory.

Students will work in groups to design and formulate a research project, carry out the field research for three days, analyze the data, and prepare a scientific report. The students will then deliver their results at the end of the program at a research symposium.

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Specific goals

  1. Provide the participants with an introduction to South Africa’s primary health care system: priorities, strategies and efficacy.
  2. Help the participants understand more about the South African environment and its unique challenges, including diseases, cultural medicinal practices, and the growing concerns associated with international travel and globalization (including climate change impacts on health).
  3. Provide students with practical experience by visiting local hospitals, clinics, out-patient clinics, and possibly orphanages and mental health clinics.
  4. Study conceptual issues underlying current South African medicine and public health policies.
  5. Gain exposure to medical staff and experts in medicine and public health.
  6. Study key health-related issues faced by medical practitioners in rural versus urban areas (e.g., TB, stress-related illnesses, prenatal care, and childbirth).
  7. Learn about the role of non-governmental organizations in supporting the national health care scheme.


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Sites visited:

The program begins in the urban setting of Johannesburg (“Jozi”)—the commercial heart and the cultural melting pot of South Africa. Our short stay includes a visit to the Apartheid and Hector Peterson museums to gain some cultural perspective on your visit to South Africa, and the University of the Witwatersrand for your initial lectures on primary health care. Given the city’s reputation, we will be staying in backpacker style accommodation (six to a room) in a safe part of the city and traveling to the various sites by bus.

Wits Rural Facility
The trip from “Jozi” to Wits Rural Facility will take you through rural South Africa as we drop off the Drakensberg Escarpment down into the lowveld.  We will stop for a break in a town along the way to pick up snacks, film, cash, and other personal items.  Wits Rural Facility is located in a nature reserve on the outskirts of the Kruger National Park.  We have arranged a diverse and interesting program with several activities involving the local community (visits to clinics and a hospital, field trips to talk with community leaders about water management and the community economy) and a visit to see Rosie and the group of traditional healers at Vukuzenzele (“Rise up and do it for yourself”).  From Wits Rural Facility we will also visit the Blyde River Canyon and take a boat ride on the Blyde River. 

Wits Rural Facility is a peaceful camp, located out in the bushveld near the town of Acornhoek and has dormitory style accommodation with communal bathrooms.  It has a quiet relaxed atmosphere and there are no shopping areas nearby.  There is space to run, play soccer, Frisbee or volleyball or simply to go for a quiet walk by yourself. You will also visit the Kruger National Park during your stay at WRF.

The next leg of the summer forms an integral component of the deep rural leg of the program. Tsulu Camp, HaMakuya lies just outside of Kruger National Park. Situated in the Venda district in the north of the country, HaMakuya offers the opportunity to become immersed in the rich culture of the Venda people. During this period, the group will interact closely with host families during a 3-day homestay, spend time experiencing what life is like as a rural person in South Africa, learn more about rural medical programs, and about the interaction between people and parks (e.g., the conflict between elephants and farmers and economic spinoffs of tourism derived from conservation areas). It is here that you will first start to engage in your independent research.

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This program is open to all undergraduate students in good academic standing and who have completed at least one semester of college-level biology. Graduating seniors are also eligible if they can stay enrolled at their home institution through the completion of the OTS program.

Program  Costs

Tuition and program fee for Summer 2013 are $6,150 plus a $40 transcript fee for non-Duke University students. The tuition and program fee include room and board, local travel, and certain recreational activities. They do not include international travel, personal effects, or incidentals. Costs for Summer 2014 will be announced in February 2014.

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Organization for Tropical Studies Enrollment Management
Duke University
Box 90630
Durham, NC 27708-0630
Tel. (919) 684-5155
Fax. (919) 684-5661
E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

All applications will be considered without regard to race, color, national and ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation or preference, gender, or age. Duke University reserves the right to cancel this program. Should it do so, refunds will be made in accordance with the policy of the Duke University Global Education Office for Undergraduates.Go to top
Last Updated ( 02/17/15 )
Organization for Tropical Studies
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