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Loss of international medical experiences: knowledge, attitudes and skills at risk

Author(s): Grudzen Corita | Legome Eric

Journal: BMC Medical Education
ISSN 1472-6920

Volume: 7;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 47;
Date: 2007;
Original page

Background Despite the great influence International Medical Experiences (IMs) can have on young physicians and their impact on patients and communities, they are not offered in all training programs and are at risk of being reduced in some due to stringent guidelines for funding of graduate medical education. Discussion IMs provide unique experiences in clinical, epidemiologic, cultural, and political arenas. From an educational perspective, they broaden a physician's differential diagnostic skills and introduce clinical entities rarely seen in the U.S. Time spent in developing countries emphasizes the importance of community health and increases cultural and linguistic competence. Experience working with the underserved during an IM has been shown to increase interest in volunteerism, humanitarian efforts, and work with underserved populations both in the US and abroad. IMs also afford physicians the opportunity to learn about the delivery of health care abroad and are associated with an increase in primary care specialty choice. Summary It is time for the leaders in graduate medical education to prioritize international health opportunities. Leaders in academic medicine can press for changes in reimbursement patterns at the national level or special funds for international electives. Hospitals can set up separate accounts to help finance resident salaries and benefits while abroad. Individual departments must be flexible with resident schedules to allow elective time. Medical students and housestaff can organize and lobby larger organizations such as the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), and specialty groups to make IMs universally accessible.
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