A Comparison of the Expectations and Experiences of Medical Students From High-, Middle-, and Low- Income Countries Participating in Global Health Clinical Electives

Members of the BGHEI team have published a new paper, A Comparison of the Expectations and Experiences of Medical Students From High-, Middle-, and Low- Income Countries Participating in Global Health Clinical Electives.

Global health education (GHE) is expanding to include socioculturally and resource- different settings, with the goal of developing a workforce with members who can promote health equity locally and globally. GHE is also no longer limited to students from high-income countries (HICs). However, it is unknown whether the motivations and experiences of medical students from HICs and from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) participating in GHE clinical electives through institutional partnerships are similar or different. Such an understanding is needed to design programs that meet the needs of participants and effectively train them in the principles and practice of global health. Approach: This was a cross-sectional, mixed-methods survey of LMIC students from partner sites rotating at one U.S. medical school, and U.S. students from one medical school rotating at partner sites, between 2010 and 2015. Variables included demographic characteristics of participants, components of the curriculum at the home institution, and components of the away rotation, including perceptions of its content and impact. Content analysis was used to identify themes in the responses provided to open-ended questions. Findings: In all, 63 of 84 (75%) LMIC and 61 of 152 (40%) U.S. students participated. Recall of predeparture training was low for both LMIC and U.S. students (44% and 55%, respectively). Opportunities to experience different healthcare systems, resource-different settings, and cultural exposure emerged as motivators for both groups. Both groups noted differences in doctor–patient relationships, interactions between colleagues, and use of diagnostic testing. U.S. respondents were more likely to perceive differences in the impact of social determinants of health and ethical issues. Both groups felt that their experience affected their interactions with patients and perspectives on education, but U.S. students were more likely to mention perspectives on healthcare delivery and social determinants of health, whereas LMIC respondents noted impacts on career goals. Insights: These results argue that GHE is not restricted to resource-constrained settings and that students from LMICs have similar reasons for participation as those from HICs. LMIC students also identified a lack of emphasis on GHE topics like social determinants of health during GH electives, which could diminish the effectiveness of these experiences. Both U.S. and LMIC students emphasized the cultural component of their GHE experience but had different perceptions regarding core tenets of GHE, such as the social determinants of health and health equity, during these experiences.