Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Short Term Medical Relief Trips and Impact on Medical Students

VCU Internal Medicine 2011 Honduras Trip
Here is an article published in Academic Medicine on the effects of short-term, international service-learning trips on medical students.

The study cohort was small and consisted of thirteen 1st year medical students from the University of Michigan. By no means is this cohort representative of all medical student associated medical relief trips to developing countries. The findings, however, are intriguing.

Of the study participants, almost no students articulated issues such as social justice or disparities as motives for seeking international service-learning trips. Common expectations were acquisition of clinical skills and language competency. However, during a structured interview with formal reflection, an increased awareness of the complexities of global health delivery and the importance of partnership with local health authorities for sustainability and impact was evident. 

Albeit of limited duration, short term medical relief trips can increase medical student awareness of global health, health disparities and social justice, particularly if formal reflection is structured into the experience.

We have frequently been asked why our work in Honduras is valuable to us. The answer, in part, is found here.  

Short term medical relief trips are likely of greatest value for local communities when executed as a longitudinal, collaborative effort with local health authorities to meet the public health needs of a population. That is the focus of our Global Health and health Disparities Program.  

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