Global Health Elective: International Opportunities for Clinical Students
Several years ago, AUC’s parent company, Adtalem Global Education, entered into a partnership with Nuvance Health to offer a Global Health elective to clinical students. Through that collaboration, many AUC students have gone to a variety of 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 2023 elective dates underway, we sat down with Jeffrey Anderson, senior clinical coordinator, to learn more about the Nuvance Health Global Health Program and how students can apply.
What is the Global Health elective and where can students go abroad?
Jeffrey Anderson: The Global Health elective is a six-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 diverse healthcare systems and to provide improved patient care through the exchange of practices and ideas.
The elective is open to AUC students provided they meet certain eligibility requirements. The program has clinical affiliations in five different countries, including the Dominican Republic, India, Uganda, Vietnam, Zimbabwe and Thailand, 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. Nuvance Health provides comprehensive support to students both ahead of and during their travel to create a smooth transition. Before your elective, the Nuvance Health Global Health Program 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 clinical supervisor weekly to discuss different patient encounters and experiences. Some sites, including in the Dominican Republic and 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 supervisor 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?
Nuvance Health offers eight different start dates per year. For the remainder of 2023, the Global Health elective will be held during the following dates:
- May 15 – June 23, 2023
- June 26 – August 4, 2023
- August 7 – September 15, 2023
- September 18 – October 27, 2023
- October 30 – December 8, 2023
2023 applications are accepted on a rolling basis with a common deadline of July 31, 2023. It’s recommended that students apply at least four months in advance of your desired dates.
While applications are currently being accepted for the remaining date blocks through 2023, the 2024 Global Health elective dates will be published around mid-2023.
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?
Interested students may reach out to me at Jeffrey.Anderson@aucmed.edu.
Once the request is received, I will reach out to set up a call to discuss the elective and review your file before sending a preliminary application form. After completion, students will return it to me, and I will review and send a link to a comprehensive online application that will be submitted directly to Nuvance Health 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 four 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 from and to JFK Airport, 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 U.S.-based airport, meals, in country-transportation (e.g., bus, taxi), travel insurance, and visa fees. I recommend allocating $10 USD a day for meals while in the host country.
What are some common misperceptions about the program?
First and foremost, this is a working 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. 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 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 in the U.S., 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 large 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.