Avoiding pitfalls in overseas medical educational experiences
In the United States, there is a growing number of medical students participating in international health electives. These experiences have the potential to be mutually beneficial to both the host country and the student. However, there is a significant risk of unethical and damaging practices during these trips including concerns for sending trainees without appropriate pre-travel preparation with inadequate accountability to local health care providers at a stage in their education which imposes an undue burden on the local health facilities. This article describes one first year medical student’s experience in navigating common challenges faced on international health electives and offers practical advice enlightened by the literature on how to overcome them. We emphasize the need for students to ensure adequate pretrip preparation, communicate their level of training clearly, practice cultural humility, ensure personal safety, and engage in projects needed by the host community.
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