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International Medical Opportunities/Importance

dean84dean84 Registered User Posts: 71 Junior Member
edited June 2013 in Pre-Med Topics
Many sample applications and resumes we've seen include international medical immersion experiences. Several local colleges offer these opportunities, but my son's college does not. I have not heard of many such domestic programs. There are many websites for international immersions, but we are weary to just sign him for programs we don't have first hand knowledge of. Traveling internationally is nothing to take lightly. I would appreciate some feedback on the importance of these experiences for med school applications and where to find them outside of your own college. Thanks!
Post edited by dean84 on

Replies to: International Medical Opportunities/Importance

  • trapeziustrapezius Registered User Posts: 223 Junior Member
    Not important. Many premeds go on these medical trips and spend lots of money thinking it will be a big boost to their application. It isnt. Not saying they wont get a good experience, but the cost benefit just didnt worth it. I would rather someone go volunteer at the local free clinic or something.
  • cadriethielcadriethiel Registered User Posts: 127 Junior Member
    My school openly dislikes these international experiences (at least, the short ones where applicants pay to go to Africa and "volunteer"). Peace corps and longer trips that show true commitment to helping developing countries are a great boost, but these expensive trips make it look like you're only interested in getting into medical school vs. actually helping people. You would be better off just donating the money you'd spend on the airfare, that would go a lot farther to helping people in need ;) (although you can't put that on your application...).
  • curmudgeoncurmudgeon Registered User Posts: 12,128 Senior Member
    Agreed. Many (but not all) of these "medical safaris" are just money sucks. Local opportunities abound in some locations (my kid went to UG in Memphis). Be very cautious. A high ticket price is a good way to start culling. Many of our local churches do medical missions to Mexico. The cost? Negligible.
  • seekingknowledgeseekingknowledge Registered User Posts: 660 Member
    So, a medical mission trip abroad (with a church or a group of docs) is not necessarily "bad". It is the high priced medical safaris that are looked down upon?
  • bluedevilmikebluedevilmike Registered User Posts: 11,964 Senior Member
    I went on an international trip for a couple of weeks twice via the same religious organization. I paid the group fee, which I assume covered my airfare and housing, and in the end it added up to be a little expensive but not too bad.

    That experience formed the centerpiece to three different personal statements, and it's been very positively received at all three stages. Interviewers often bring it up with compliments. I suppose maybe there's a bunch of people who found it annoying and rejected me without telling me why?

    Certainly nobody's ever asked me about how much I spent.
  • curmudgeoncurmudgeon Registered User Posts: 12,128 Senior Member
    sk. I am not even saying they look down on the high cost medical safaris. They might. I am just saying that they are just not the "be all and end all" of applications. Money and time might be better spent elsewhere.
  • curmudgeoncurmudgeon Registered User Posts: 12,128 Senior Member
    Just ask yourself why you are choosing this opportunity. If your answer starts and ends with "it will look good on the app" then I doubt you'll be as convincing as bdm was. ;)
  • kristin5792kristin5792 Registered User Posts: 2,068 Senior Member
    I agree with Mike. I also went on a short trip (which I carefully selected based on what I knew about the organization running it) and really enjoyed it. I had a great time, developed interests in other aspects of health care (such as public health and health literacy), and eventually further developed those interests when I returned--and in fact, am still involved in such fields. Are you going because it sounds like it would be personally rewarding and an experience you really want to have, or because you want to "keep up with the Joneses" or otherwise "look good" on an application? If it's the former pair, go. If it's the latter, I'd skip.
  • seekingknowledgeseekingknowledge Registered User Posts: 660 Member
    Curmudgeon: No the "looks good on apps" deal isn't what DS seems to be about. He's been heavily involved in an underserved area close to his school this year. As he says, "this experience rocks my world".

    He's beginning an great clinical research opportunity in the same area this fall. Some docs that volunteer abroad each year asked if he would be interested in joining them next summer for 2-4 weeks. He is really excited to get a handle on the healthcare delivery in underserved communities abroad. A sort of compare and contrast thing for him. I think he might be hooked on this.

    I was just clarifying that it wouldn't hurt him. I don't think her really cares if it helps or not. It seems to mean to much to him.
  • curmudgeoncurmudgeon Registered User Posts: 12,128 Senior Member
    Then he's good to go. ;)
  • seekingknowledgeseekingknowledge Registered User Posts: 660 Member
    Kristin, we cross posted. Thanks for the information. And congrats on Step 1! If you remember the professor's wine recs from "Grapes and Wines of the World", I highly suggested celebrating with a glass of your favorite. After all, you deserve it.

    BDM, sometimes that narrative comes from experiences that take you by surprise, correct? I'm not sure that this will be his story, but I've got a strange feeling...

    And as always, thank you curmudgeon.
  • dean84dean84 Registered User Posts: 71 Junior Member
    Thanks for the feedback everyone. If someone wants to do one of these trips for all the right reasons, how do you find a program if your college or church doesn't provide such an opportunity? Any specific programs to recommend (domestic or international)?
  • maramamarama Registered User Posts: 327 Member
    I have no idea what your language background is, but a very good program I know of is Magen David Adom (the Israeli equivalent of the American Red Cross). You need basic conversational Hebrew, and they provide 60 hours of first responder training before sending you out to work on ambulances with crews of paid medical professionals. (I wonder if the Red Cross in other countries might not do something similar.)

    Another non-profit you might look want to look into is called A Broader View. My daughter will be doing a six-week volunteering journey with them this summer. For her specific location, they ask that people be fluent Spanish speakers and have some sort of medical training -- she's a pretty freshly-minted EMT Basic-- but other locations offer different options.
  • WayOutWestMomWayOutWestMom Registered User Posts: 9,668 Senior Member
    My neighbor's daughter, a couple of my children's high school friends and one of my own daughters all had had excellent experiences with Child Family Health International.

    (The neighbor's daughter is a paramedic and she has gone back on several repeat trips.)

    CFHI does healthcare education and provides community health services in South Africa, Mexico, Equador, Boliva, Argentina and India.

    The program has <4% overhead--one of the lowest of any charity in the US--and has been operating for more than 25 years.
  • maramamarama Registered User Posts: 327 Member
    This website has a lot of leads: Study, Volunteer, Intern and Teach Abroad | Go Overseas

    I think a good thing to look out for is whether the organization is a registered (501) (c)(3) charity. Another point of comparison is how many hours a day are actually spent volunteering, and what kinds of tasks volunteers are assigned to do. I like the fact that A Broader View told my daughter she will be working eight hours a day, five days a week. You will notice that many programs will arrange for volunteers to work only in the mornings, with afternoons spent sightseeing or taking language classes.

    The government-run rural clinic where she’s going apparently lacks even the most basic necessities, and the organization asks participants to bring donated supplies if at all possible. (I have bought three cases of examination gloves, which she will take as an extra piece of luggage on her flight because, evidently, shipped items tend to go "missing". The total weight is only 40 lbs., so it's not too unwieldy.)

    Here's the link to a review written by a participant at the location my daughter is going to: Volunteer Guatemala Antigua 5 different social programs | GoOverseas.com (scroll down for the review). In general, it sounds very good to me, however there is one troubling problem that this volunteer touches on, although she doesn’t seem to see it as problematic. The volunteer had completed three years of a four-year nursing program when she went to Guatemala, and she states: “The staff taught me how to do so many things so that by the end of my stay there they trusted me with running the clinics on my own. The nurses frequently went to various health education conferences and they were thankful to have me to fill in for them. This was something that I certainly did not expect, but felt honored that they trusted me with these important roles.” Obviously, under no circumstance should volunteers overstep the bounds of their professional preparation by performing any action they are not trained and certified to do.

    This problem is highlighted in an animated You Tube video apparently based on actual statements made by participants in medical volunteer journeys to underdeveloped countries: I Want To Help People, Or Dangerously Good Intentions - YouTube. It’s pretty alarming, to say the least. My daughter and I watched this video together, so she is aware that she may be asked to take on more responsibility than she is qualified for, and she is prepared to say "no" if necessary.
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