Medical experience in Africa

October 23, 2020

Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.

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Gaining medical experience in Africa can help you build a global health perspective. Learning from an international community can help you diversify your resume and become a more compelling candidate for medical or nursing school.

However, it’s important to choose programs abroad wisely. The African continent, in particular, has been subject to medical volunteers and shadowing programs that do not follow ethical guidelines. As a premed or pre health student, it’s important to build up your portfolio in a way that protects you and all patients. So how can you get clinical experience in Africa?

Our Tanzania program focuses on learning about medicine in African culture. Our program leads you through different levels of healthcare delivery in the country, starting with tribal healers in rural villages, then observations in a more modern healthcare facility guided by mentoring healthcare professionals.

Healthcare professionals who have experience with patients from different ethnicities, countries, socioeconomic backgrounds, can understand how diversity and culture impact medicine. Whether you are interested in becoming a nurse, physician assistant, midwife, or doctor, our program can help you provide better care to your future patients.

How culture impacts healthcare

The African continent provides a vastly different cultural and medical experience, which can be highly educational for premed and pre health students.

There are many rural communities that still follow more traditional practices for healthcare delivery and lack basic access to healthcare. In fact, fewer than 50% of Africans have access to modern healthcare facilities.

Many countries in Africa have the additional challenge of widespread cases of HIV/AIDS and malaria, which exacerbate other healthcare conditions.

On our Tanzania program, you will be visiting rural communities of the Massai and Hehe tribes, where traditional healers provide treatment. This is often the first step for many patients. The next step would be to seek treatment at a smaller clinic. If a patient is still injured or sick they may proceed to a general hospital, possibly with a referral from the clinic.

As a student in our program, you will follow the same process that a patient takes so that you can fully understand the experience and how traditions and culture impact healthcare delivery. Throughout your program, your mentoring doctors will answer all of your questions as they guide you through these levels.

It’s important to find a medical program that highlights the unique culture of Africa and the country you are in. The purpose of getting experience abroad is to understand global health, which you can only do with a program that brings the culture and traditions in to focus. 

All our Global Pre-Meds staff have strong connections with the local communities and healthcare facilities you will be working with. Our Tanzania team, who is specifically chosen and trained by us, is able to give you a first hand experience that you may not receive through other companies.

Finding an ethical program in Africa

It’s important no matter what program you choose to gain medical experience in Africa, that you follow all ethical guidelines and do not interfere with patient care.

In Africa, there have been some unfortunate cases of volunteer and internship organizations overstepping and not following the ethical rules laid out by the AMA and BMA. If you are found to have performed medical procedures you are not qualified for, or otherwise breaking these rules, your future as a healthcare professional could be put in jeopardy.

We are here to support you on your journey. We have strict ethical guidelines that take us one step further than the AAMC and BMA. Our Global Pre-Meds programs forbid any physical contact with patients. While you may have opportunities to learn medical skills on dummies or take the vitals of your peers, you will not be performing any procedures on patients. We are strictly observational. 

Additionally, we financially support all of our individual partners and institutions. A portion of your program fee goes towards the communities, healers, and doctors who mentor and guide you throughout. Not only does this act as an incentive to create an excellent experience for you, but it also helps increase access to healthcare for Tanzanian communities.

We encourage you to participate in our weekly volunteer projects, where we partner with local organizations for environmental or social projects. At Global Pre-Meds we want to make sure we have a positive impact on all the communities we are in, while giving students the chance to gain medical experience in Africa.

Safety and security

As with any study or medical experience abroad, your safety and security should always be top priority. You want to make sure the program you choose has methods in place to keep everyone safe.

Our Global Pre-Meds programs are unique in that we curate your entire experience. From the moment you land in Tanzania, we take care of everything. Your transportation, food, and housing are all included in your program.

The beautiful Global Pre-Meds guesthouse will be your sanctuary. We control who has access and when, so that you are protected 24/7. When you are finished with your program activities, you can enjoy the many amenities with your peers.

Our in-house chef will provide locally sourced breakfast and dinner meals, giving you a glimpse into Tanzanian cuisine, with a few international options as well. Someone will always be at the house to take care of your needs.

Because our program is strictly observational, you will not have any physical contact with patients that could lead to transmission or harm to either you or the patient. Our mentors will be with you every step of the way as you travel and observe the different levels of healthcare. We will also provide PPE when necessary and keep you in a bubble of our staff and your peers throughout your program.

If you are looking for medical experience in Africa, make sure you research the program’s policies, and it’s always a good idea to purchase traveler’s insurance. If you choose to explore African culture Global Pre-Meds, we will be there every step of the way to ensure your health and safety.

You can read more about our global health experience program here. We hope you join us!