How to find an ethical medical program abroad

October 26, 2020

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

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Medical volunteering and doctor shadowing programs abroad can be wonderful learning experiences! Unfortunately, there are some examples of foreign organizations breaking ethical guidelines in pursuit of these types of programs. It can be challenging to find an ethical medical program abroad.

Pre-med students are looking for experience abroad to gain a global health perspective and to create a positive impact. There are many options available, but the question is how do you know if it’s a safe and ethical program?

You should take the time to research any program you’re considering. We’ve outlined some key things to examine when looking for an ethical doctor shadowing program abroad

At Global Pre-Meds, we value our professional and positive relationships with the local hospitals, mentoring doctors, and communities where our programs are located. We maintain that relationship through high standards for our students and any individual involved with our program. We follow all AAMC and BMA guidelines, and do not allow you to have any physical contact with patients. This protects your future as a healthcare professional and gives you the opportunity to have frontline experience at an international hospital

Doing no harm

If you are a premed, pre-nursing, pre-PA or midwifery student, it is important to remember that you have not yet received all the training necessary to provide professional treatment. When you are trying to find an ethical medical program abroad, you need to keep this in mind as you do your research and on the program.

While this is important for you to remember and adhere to as a student, it is also necessary for the medical doctor shadowing or volunteer program you are applying for to understand this. Their policies should reflect this and students should not be responsible for treating patients when they are not licensed to do so. 

Too many times foreigners have traveled to other countries and performed medical procedures that they were not qualified to do. At Global Pre-Meds, we do not even allow our students to have physical contact with patients. This is to prevent injury to the patient, the student, and protect the integrity of the medical institution and doctor. Additionally, we want to support you in your journey to become a medical professional. If you were a part of an unethical program, this could affect your medical school admission and future career. 

We want to help you succeed! Our mentoring doctors will be with you every step of the way. They are chosen specifically because we believe they are good partners for us and good mentors for you, which means they are also trained on all of our policies. 

Find a program that ensures not only your safety, but the safety of its employees and the local community. It is possible to find programs that are mutually beneficial to the students, organization, and local community. 

Respecting the local population

When you are traveling to another country, you are diving into a whole new culture, with a history and traditions that you may not understand or agree with. However, you will undoubtedly encounter patients and coworkers from different backgrounds in whatever healthcare career you choose. International experience can be a great advantage to you. But as a guest in another country, you and the organization you are representing should be respectful of the people who live and work in the country. 

Find an ethical medical program abroad that values the culture and the people. It would be best if the organization hires local people so that you can get the most out of the experience and truly learn about the context of medicine in that area. 

At Global Pre-Meds, your mentoring doctors are professionals who work at the local hospital. We choose doctors and hospitals who are willing to work with us and are willing to share their perspectives with students. The relationship you build with your mentor during your program is a high priority for us. This is your opportunity to understand the day-to-day life of a doctor or physician and ask the questions you need to decide if a career in healthcare is right for you.  We trust your mentors to be your guide and keep you safe through a minimum of 40 hours of shadowing on hospital frontlines

During your program you will stay at the beautiful Global Pre-Meds guesthouse, where our local staff takes care of your needs. We have an in-house chef that prepares your delicious and locally-sourced meals, and we usually offer excursions so that you can see more of the beautiful country. 

The cultural exchange that occurs during your program is one of the highlights of shadowing with us. You gain a global health perspective that many medical professionals don’t get the chance to have. In addition to the knowledge you gain just by observing in the hospitals, we also have global health seminars with your mentors so that you can further understand that context of the cases you are seeing. 

Creating a positive impact

Find an organization who is committed to making a positive impact! You can have a successful program or business that benefits pre health students and the local community all at the same time. 

Any ethical program should fairly compensate their employees! At Global Pre-Meds, a portion of your program fee goes directly to paying the mentoring doctor and hospitals you are placed in. This not only creates an incentive to provide an amazing learning experience for you, but it also leads to increased local access to healthcare. When hardworking doctors are paid appropriate wages, they are able to focus on their work rather than finding hours at multiple hospitals to make ends meet. The funds that go towards the hospital allow the institution to buy better equipment and resources. 

Additionally, we often have opportunities for you to partner with local organizations for volunteer projects. Sometimes that includes a beach cleanup or a visit to a nearby orphanage. 

Check the history of any organization or program that you’re considering. There should be reviews from former participants or articles talking about the program. If you have any questions talk to a representative before making any commitment.

If you want to find an ethical medical program abroad, you can learn more about when we do at Global Pre-Meds.