Short-term international programs for medical students can have unintended consequences

As American medical students increasingly want and expect to have international work experience, more and more short-term programs are being offered to give them that opportunity, according to Melissa Melby, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Delaware.

The trouble is, she writes in a new article in Academic Medicine, that too many of these programs — called STEGH, or short-term experiences in global health — focus on the needs of the student trainees and not on what’s best for their patients or for overall health care in the countries they visit.

“Most students who participate in these programs genuinely want to help people,” Melby said. “But many of them may not be aware of the unintended consequences that can occur. In this article, we propose four core principles that we hope will help guide both the developers and the participants in STEGH programs.”

Melby, who specializes in the biological and medical aspects of anthropology, is the lead author of the article, written with colleagues who are medical doctors involved with global health care issues. She said her co-authors, who connected with her through the Delaware Health Sciences Alliance, of which UD is a founding partner, saw problems with many STEGH programs and sought her out for an anthropological perspective. Read more on UDAILY

 

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