Global Health Elective
Two years ago, AUC entered into a partnership with Danbury Hospital and the Western Connecticut Health Network (WCHN) to offer a Global Health elective to clinical students. Through that collaboration, more than 30 students have gone to five different countries to experience medical care in a new environment. The opportunity has been described as eye opening and life changing, and one that influences students well into their careers as physicians.
With the 2019 Global Health elective dates just released, we sat down with AUC Senior Clinical Education Advisor, Jose Gomez, to learn more about the Global Health Program how students can apply for the elective.
What is the Global Health elective and where can students go abroad?
The Global Health elective is a 6-week immersive clerkship that sends medical students and residents to clinical teaching sites around the world. The program was established to facilitate a deeper understanding of healthcare and to provide improve patient care through the exchange of practices and ideas.
Up to 24 AUC students each year can participate in the elective provided they meet certain eligibility requirements. The program has clinical affiliations in five different countries, including the Dominican Republic, Russia, Uganda, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe, with each site offering the unique ability to access different medical systems, environments, patient populations, diseases, and health practices.
What support do students have while participating in the program?
Traveling to a new country and entering a new culture is exciting but it can also be challenging. WCHN provides comprehensive support to students both ahead of and during their travel to create a smooth transition. Before your elective, WCHN will provide education and training on issues typically encountered during your elective—things like prevalent tropical diseases, practical dilemmas, ethical issues, and safety guidelines. They will also hold pre-departure orientation sessions to review the elective goals, curriculum, travel arrangements, and site requirements.
During the elective, you will meet with your attending weekly to discuss different patient encounters and experiences. Two of the sites in Uganda (Mulago and St. Stephen’s Hospitals) have a homestay model, which allows students to live and interact with their attending on a daily basis. You will also be required to keep a journal throughout your clerkship as a way of processing different events in the hospital and the community. This reflective writing helps students chronicle their journey and think deeply about their impact on an area and that area’s impact on them.
When will the Global Health elective be offered in 2019?
WCHN offers eight different start dates per year. For the rest of 2018 and into 2019, the Global Health elective will be held during the following dates:
- September 10 – October 19, 2018
- October 22 – November 30, 2018
- January 7 – February 15, 2019
- February 18 – March 29, 2019
- April 1 – May 10, 2019
- May 13 – June 21, 2019
- June 24 – August 2, 2019
- August 5 – September 13, 2019
- September 16 – October 25, 2019
- October 28 – December 6, 2019
Applications are due at three intervals throughout the year: January 1, May 1 and September 1. I recommend that you apply at least five months in advance of your desired dates.
What are the eligibility requirements?
To be considered, students must be in good academic standing with all core rotations completed (Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Surgery, and OB/GYN).
How can interested students apply?
First, send an email to my attention at firstname.lastname@example.org. Once I receive your request, I will set up a call to discuss the elective and review your file before sending you an online application form. You will then fill out the form, return it to me, and I will review and send it on to the WCHN Global Health Program. From that point forward, you will work directly with the Global Health team to finalize your application (e.g., one-page motivation letter, a copy of your passport and other official documentation, and your CV).
It’s worth repeating that you should begin this process at least five months in advance of your desired elective dates. That gives us plenty of time to review your application and verify all documentation. If you want to get a head start, you can contact me as early as your third year to begin the process. The sooner the better because spots are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.
What costs are covered and what costs will students need to anticipate?
The program will cover your largest expenses, including your roundtrip flight, accommodations, and transportation from the host country airport to your accommodations. Similar to other electives, you will have certain financial responsibilities, like covering the cost of transportation from your place of residence to the US-based airport, meals, in country-transportation (e.g., bus, taxi), travel insurance, and visa fees. I recommend allocating $10 USD a day for meals.
What are some common misperceptions about the program?
This is a Global Health elective and not medical tourism. Many students apply for a specific country but you should really approach the elective as an experience, not a destination. While the program does its best to match you with your preferred country, there is no guarantee. Consider the elective with an open mind and don’t be disappointed if you are matched to your second choice. You will get far more from the experience if you are flexible and impartial.
I also get questions about ACGME accreditation. The Global Health elective is not ACGME-accredited which means it does not count towards licensure. That’s why we only consider students who have already completed or are on track to complete the recommended 54 weeks of ACGME-accredited clerkships. Many fourth-year students meet that minimum well in advance of graduation and have leftover time to fill with clerkships like the Global Health elective.
What are some benefits of going abroad?
From a professional perspective, you will gain significant hands-on training and exposure to entirely different healthcare systems. Unlike the US, Global Health elective sites often don’t have advanced technology, which means you rely less on machines and more on your clinical and diagnostic skills. And, because specialists are less common, you are apt to work on a variety of cases, patients, and diseases which improve overall medical knowledge. These are good experiences to put on a CV and strong talking points during a residency interview.
On a more personal level, this experience is often a spark for students. It renews their sense of purpose, their drive to be a physician, and their ability to see and understand things in a broader context. Community engagement is a big part of the elective and it affords students the opportunity to teach and care for people in remote villages and rural areas. That experience of bringing health equity to the underserved is powerful and one that often guides students in medical school and beyond.
>> Are you interested in global health? Listen to our latest webinar to hear from students and graduates who recently completed the Global Health elective.
Pictured: Deyanna Boston, MD '17, working with a patient during her Global Health elective in Uganda.