Global Health Education for Medical Students: When Learning Objectives Include Research
The Luke Commission, a provider of comprehensive mobile health outreach in rural Swaziland, focuses on human immunodeficiency virus testing and prevention, including the performance of over 100 circumcisions weekly. Educational objectives for medical student global health electives are essential. Learning research methodology while engaging in clinical activities reinforces curriculum goals. Medical care databases can produce clinically significant findings affecting international health policy. Engaging in academic research exponentially increased the educational value of student experiences during an international medical elective.
Staff of the Luke Commission, a nongovernmental organization, collected and deidentified information from 1500 Swazi male patients undergoing circumcision from January through June of 2014. Medical students designed studies and analyzed these data to produce research projects on adverse event rates, pain perception, and penile malformations. Institutional review board approval was obtained from the home institution and accompanying senior surgical faculty provided mentorship.
First-year medical students enrolled in an international medical elective to explore resource availability, cultural awareness, health care provision, and developing world endemic diseases. While in country, students learned research methodology, collected data, and engaged in research projects. Following the trip, students presented posters at over 10 regional and national meetings. All 4 articles are accepted or under consideration for publication by major journals.
During international medical electives the combination of clinical experiences and access to databases from health aid organizations provides the foundation for productive medical student research. All participants benefit from the relationships formed by aid organizations, medical students, and patient populations. Global health research has many complexities, but through careful planning and cultural awareness, medical students can increase their research skills and contribute to the medical literature, bringing attention to and improving health care policies around the world. In sum, the educational experience of medical students is enhanced through the interaction of delivering patient care and completing clinical research studies.
Bales, A. M.,
Oddo, A. R.,
Dennis, D. J.,
Siska, R. C.,
Markert, R. J.,
& McCarthy, M. C.
(2018). Global Health Education for Medical Students: When Learning Objectives Include Research. Journal of Surgical Education, 75 (4), 1022-1027.