You may hear about international health experiences, perhaps part of a study abroad program, research fellowship, global civic opportunity, or sometimes fee-for-participation programs focusing solely on providing health care experiences. Engaging with patients, working with health care providers in rural areas, going on mission trips, and seeing health care outside the U.S. may be of interest and useful to you, especially if you are interested in public health, global health, health care delivery systems, health care policy, research, or if you wish to incorporate the experience as part of your major.
However, be thoughtful. International health care experience will not replace the need for experience within the U.S. health care system, as this is where you will study and work. Be wary of programs that advertise international clinical experience that you pay for, as some may be poorly supervised. Be careful in that some programs may ask you to interact with patients without adequate training, expose you to infection, or allow you to be accused of ethical lapses for performing medical care without proper education and credentials. As with any international program, be sure the program appropriately addresses issues such as vaccinations, cultural competency, personal behavior, security, insurance, local laws, and how to communicate with the program or with the US if there are problems. For more information, see
- Guidelines for Premedical and Medical Students Providing Patient Care During Clinical Experiences Abroad
- Guidelines for Undergraduate Health-Related Programs Abroad, Forum on Education Abroad
- Ethics and Best Practice Guidelines for Training Experiences in Global Health, by JA Crump and J Sugarman
- Perceptions of short-term medical volunteer work: a qualitative study in Guatemala, by T Green, H Green, J Scandlyn, A Kestler, in Globalization and Health, 2009
- Do you GASP? How pre-health students delivering babies in Africa is quickly becoming consequentially unacceptable. The Advisor, December 2015, p. 61. Article available in the AdviseStream Advising Resource Library.