Breno Carvalho, a fourth-year medical student from Brazil, spent four weeks at WesternU learning about the differences in medical education and health care between his home country and the U.S.

American students typically complete a four-year undergraduate program before entering medical school. Carvalho said students in Brazil go directly from high school into a six-year medical school program. He is studying at the Federal University of Piaui.

Brazil has a universal health care system. Private hospitals have good facilities and professionals, he said. Public hospitals are more crowded than Western University Medical Center, where he noticed that WesternU students could spend more time consulting with patients.

“In Brazil, it’s more crowded and you have less time with patients,” he said.

WesternU students also have more time to talk with their preceptors.

“Sometimes in Brazil, we don’t have time to do this,” Carvalho said. “We don’t have easy access to computers with Internet to do research during consultation with the patient.”

Carvalho comes from a health care family – his father is a doctor at a public and private hospital and his mother is a dentist. At the moment he is leaning toward specializing in dermatology. He returned home on March 26 to share with classmates what he learned in the U.S.

In 2007, Carvalho traveled as an exchange student to Poland. This exchange in Europe was different because he was staying in a hostel with almost 30 students from various countries in Europe. Carvalho stayed with Duc Nguyen, DO, COMP assistant professor, during his time at WesternU. His time with Dr. Nguyen was very pleasant and allowed an exchange of medical, cultural and even gastronomic knowledge, resulting in a great friendship, Carvalho said.

During his visit, he also took in some entertainment – skiing, Knott’s Berry Farm, Disneyland and listening to the L.A. Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

His visit came courtesy of IFMSA (International Federation of Medical Students’ Association), an independent, non-governmental and non-political federation of medical students’ associations throughout the world. In 2007, IFMSA had 102 National Member Organizations from 100 countries on six continents and represented more than 1 million medical students worldwide, according to the Web site

Students who visit are required to do a research paper and a presentation comparing diseases they see here versus in their own country, said Louise Ye, DO ’11, president of the WesternU chapter of IFMSA.

Working in other countries provides a good learning opportunity for medical students, she said.

“You see what different diseases are out there,” she said.