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April 2012 Newsletter Andrew Osten Chair Lauren Page Black Vice Chair Jared Brown Mariam Eskander Lauren Gluck Michael Henderson Mitchell Li Neil Murthy Mohana Roy Mary Becker Rysavy Vanessa Stan Chris Verdick
Connecting with International NGOs
For most of us, our medical school experience begins during our undergraduate years where we carefully craft our coveted personal statements. In our essays, we proudly showcase our talents and boldly declare our dreams. As aspiring physicians, we often write of our desire to one day volunteer in distant countries, provide aid to the most destitute in society, and become physicians with a humanitarian and global focus. After the thrill of medical school acceptances passes and the mundane routine of academia sets in, we sometimes dismiss those dreams as whimsical fantasies— written by an undergraduate student far too removed from reality. However, before the temptation of cynicism settles in, it might be well worth the effort to brush the dust off our personal statements (and the dreams mentioned therein), and seriously consider ways how we—as medical students—can engage in meaningful international endeavors. One of the most effective ways that medical students can participate in international health projects is by partnering up with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) scattered around the world. By volunteering with these nonprofit organizations, students will have the rare opportunity to see how health care is delivered in a variety of international destinations. So go right ahead! Take a break from the humdrum campus life, and delve into a world of volunteering with NGOs, where you have a chance to brush up your clinical skills, travel to exotic places, and transform the dreams written in your personal statement into reality. The key element in organizing a successful trip with an international NGO is to plan ahead—months, if not years, in advance. Evaluate your hectic medical school schedule and assess the availability of free time to travel. Perhaps an escapade to subSaharan Africa or to the jungles of South America might be available at your disposal. Granted, if you attend an institution that is not too keen on public or global health work, your quest to work with an NGO becomes all the more challenging. However, a visit to the World Association of NGOs website (www.wango.org) would start you on the right track. It is here where you can explore the various NGOs located throughout the world. Contact the ones that interest you. Do some research and determine whether they permit medical students to join them on their missions to serve the needy. Perhaps you may even be able to meet with some of the individuals affiliated with the NGO that you are considering to work with. For instance, when the opportunity arose to volunteer with Epilogos Charities (an NGO serving the sick and poor in the rural countryside of El Salvador) I was able to personally meet the directors of the NGO who happened to be visiting the United States at the time. Contacting the directors and staff members beforehand helps you to know an NGO and allows you to see whether their interests are compatible with yours. Another way to get started is networking with people who have already engaged in such international projects. Contacting those who have volunteered with an NGO will shed light on your expected roles and responsibilities within that NGO. Networking can be made simpler by joining organizations that have a special interest in the public health sector. Stay tuned to venues such as the American Medical Association (www.ama-assn.org), the American College of Preventive Medicine (www.acpm.org ) and the American Medical Student Association (http://www.amsa.org). The Medical Student Sections of those groups often advertise international fellowships and NGO opportunities on their e-mail lists. The American College of Preventive
Medicine in particular hosts webinars where students come together to share ideas on global health opportunities, and how students can become more involved. To obtain more information on these webinars, visit these groups’ Facebook pages and email lists. Faculty members at medical schools routinely engage in humanitarian mission trips abroad, and often permit medical students to participate in their endeavors. Some of these professors would be knowledgeable about the NGOs serving in the area that they volunteer in, and these professors might be able to connect you to those NGOs. The last step, and often the most crucial one, is to ensure that you have adequate funding. I recommend reading a concise brochure published by the American Medical Student Association entitled “Creative Funding for International Health Electives,” which lists organizations that will fund medical students who are willing to volunteer abroad (simply do a Google search to find the aforementioned brochure). Organizations like the Katie Memorial Foundation provide scholarships of up to $3000 for students who are dedicated to serving the poor in foreign countries. Perhaps your school could provide funding for your international experience. In addition, many NGOs with religious affiliations often provide free lodging and food once you arrive at the site; therefore, all that the volunteer is monetarily responsible for is paying for his/her own airline tickets. Be proactive and do your research, and you will soon encounter a myriad of funding opportunities that can finance your trip. Clearly, all of the ideas suggested above are intended to introduce you to the process of volunteering with NGOs. Hopefully, your fervent and persistent research will eventually take you on a trip to a far off country to serve the sick and the needy. Volunteering with an international NGO will expose you to a world where resources are scant and disparities abound. It will challenge you to use innovative means to confront the horrors of infectious diseases sweeping over vulnerable societies. Furthermore, understanding the correlation between medicine and public health will enable you to become a wellrounded and compassionate medical practitioner. It will also re-ignite that insatiable desire to serve the needy that you expressed in your personal statement so many years ago. Neil Murthy University of Texas Southwestern Medical School
MEDICAL SPANISH IMMERSION
Have you ever wanted to learn a new language and experience what it’s like to work in a hospital in a foreign country? There are many programs in South
F OGARTY S UMMER O PPORTUNITIES
That being said, it means one of the limitations of this path is that your school must apply and receive a Fogarty grant, and you must be interested in the field for which this grant was intended. Several of these grants are used to develop fellowships, but yearlong some Many medical schools carry grants and funding that is meant specifically for the purpose of improving global health. One major provider of this funding is the NIH Fogarty Center, International which provides your fellow students, inform them about the NIH Fogarty International Center and give them the web address http://www.fic.nih.gov to find out more information about these funding opportunities. Even if your school may not be in time to help you find funding, you may make the difference you. Jared Brown University of Texas Medical Branch for those students who follow after
America that allow you to do just that. With a brief internet search, you can likely find one in any location you would like to visit. Two such programs are the Andean Global Studies Spanish School in Ecuador I.L.E.E. and the Argentina Spanish
School. Both offer a medically oriented program that sets aside time for individual Spanish tutoring and shadowing in the hospital, allowing you to use what language you have learned firsthand. These programs also offer and ample to opportunity to to explore the city in the afternoons travel nearby destinations on weekends off. Depending on your school you may even be able to arrange to have one of the programs count towards an elective 3
grants for a wide range of programs, normally aimed towards research. For medical students interested in procuring some of this funding, you need to look locally at your own school or an institution who has acquired a Fogarty grant.
schools use the money to set up 1-3 month research internships. Look into options at your school and see if this is available!, If opportunities interest you or
Does your medical school have a free clinic?
Can you take five minutes to complete this survey about free clinics at your school?
The AMA-MSS Committee on Global and Public Health is researching free clinics that work with medical schools and their students across the country. One of the ways we are doing this is by collecting responses from medical students, like you, from as many medical schools as possible about the free clinics that work with their school. If you know of someone more familiar with the clinic than you, please forward the link in the magenta box below. Even if there are no free clinics currently working with your school, please complete the survey so we have a sense of where such opportunities do not currently exist. We are hoping that this information will not only be a single source for medical students seeking to volunteer at a free clinic, but also a way to showcase the community involvement of medical students and serve as a resource for students hoping to set-up new clinics.
year credit Even if you don’t get that bonus, the experience alone should make you give this opportunity serious consideration if you find yourself with a few weeks to fill. Take a step into the unfamiliar and learn more about the world around you! Jared Brown University of Texas Medical Branch