May 29, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
Several organisations in the UK now offer medical placements in developing countries and the foremost question on most pre-med students’ minds is, “Why”? Why do a placement in a developing country which in all probability will not have access to the latest technology and equipment that you would need to use as a doctor in any medical facility in the UK? Well, a medical placement offers something beyond hi-tech medicine and it can help you in numerous ways both on the personal and professional fronts.
Here are just some of the more compelling reasons why you should consider signing up for a medical placement in a developing country.
The first two things med school authorities look for in applications are the applicant’s interest level and commitment to medicine. A medical placement in a developing country demonstrates both. It shows that your commitment to helping others and your interest in medicine extends beyond just spending a couple of days volunteering in a neighbourhood charity organisation. Moreover, it gives you a lot to talk about in your interview.
Interestingly, while you may opt to sign up for a placement primarily to boost your application, once you actually get to your destination and start working at the local hospital, you will realise that there is a lot more to it as well.
Developing countries do not have the kind of technology or facilities that developed countries have in their hospitals. The hospitals in these places are often understaffed and under-equipped.
Another reality that you will discover in developing countries is that most people are not covered by medical insurance and they have to pay for their treatment from their own pockets. More often than not, they avoid going to doctors and hospitals for as long as possible and then finally decide to visit the doctor only when there is no other option. This means that most cases are severe and need to be treated urgently. In observing these doctors at work, you will learn how to treat advanced diseases while making the best use of the limited resources available.
Another great learning experience that takes place during these placements is that you come in contact with a number of cases which you would not usually see back at home. This exposure will help you be a more rounded medical professional and will give you the edge should you decide to join international health organisations like the WHO, UNICEF, GAVI and others.
A medical placement in a developing country will help you grow as a doctor, as well as a human being. It opens your mind to the true facts and conditions of patients and health facilities in poorer countries around the world. It gives you a reality check that medicine is not always about treating insured patients in sterile, immaculately clean surroundings. This experience will help you get to know yourself better and will help you make up your mind about medicine and if it really is the right choice for you.