Shadowing a DoctorJuly 4, 2012
Another term for tropical medicine which is increasingly coming in to common usage is international medicine, as this describes this branch of study with rather more accuracy. Where once the study of tropical diseases was a rather esoteric path to follow, with limited opportunities to use it as a whole career, the increasing amount of global travel and the inclusion of study of conditions beyond rare infections or infestation with parasites has brought it more to the forefront of choices as a speciality.
Tropical or international medicine has numerous branches, many open to professions supplementary to medicine. There are courses run at schools of tropical medicine worldwide and anyone wishing to pursue this line of study should be able to find a suitable school relatively nearby. For those wishing to add a module or two to their portfolio, there are distance learning opportunities, but for doctors wishing to specialise, the course is typically two years, with a placement at a hospital or school with particular interest in international medicine.
There is a lot more to international medicine than the simple study of disease. A justifiably large area of study within the course is hygiene and the prevention of diseases such as malaria, bilharzia and waterborne diseases which retraining of local people can easily help to reduce or even eradicate altogether. This element of the speciality is usually also to be found as a standalone module and it is a very useful one for anyone planning to work abroad either long term or as a gap year or sabbatical.
Immunization programmes are an important element of international medicine and with recent news from India that the country is polio-free is a huge boost to everyone who is interested in eradicating where possible some of the great killer diseases worldwide. The study of tropical medicine and taking it into the field is a very worthwhile addition to any medical professional’s knowledge base and with the number of hospitals with a specialist unit increasing the job base is also much wider. Some schools of international medicine offer placements to foreign students, to prepare them for the rather rarer conditions which may pertain in their own countries. Working with them is a very interesting experience for any medical professional, as the exchange of experiences adds a lot in both directions.
Doctors in every field are seeing more and more examples of conditions caused by previously rarely seen diseases because of wider holiday travel options. From the perhaps expected skin eruptions caused by unfamiliar insect bites to gastrointestinal and urological complications, a holiday abroad can still create medical issues no matter how many precautions are taken by the tourist. Malaria is an area of study all its own, with many strains of mosquito now becoming accustomed to common insecticides and malarial strains to many of the prophylactic medications. Specialists in tropical medicine are even called upon now and again to deal with bites from exotic insects which have stowed away in luggage or produce.