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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 27  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 143-147

Pre-departure training and the social accountability of International Medical Electives

1 Department of Anthropology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
2 Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Ontario, Canada

Correspondence Address:
Lauren J Wallace
Department of Anthropology, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario, L8S 4L9
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1357-6283.143745

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Background: Due to widespread awareness of global inequities in health and development, participation and interest in International Medical Electives has grown. However, it has been suggested that the benefits of these electives for students and communities may not outweigh the harms. Pre-departure training (PDT) has been proposed as a route through which participants can adequately prepare for their elective experience. Methods: Through a review of the current literature, this article explores the ethics of international medical electives using a social accountability framework and assesses the success of PDT in mitigating harms for students and communities. Results: We find that the literature on PDT is limited. What is clear from completed studies is that the focus of PDT has often been centered on the clinical experience, while theories of development and health inequity remain minor topics. We argue that a greater benefit for students and communities could be gained from framing health inequity from a critical perspective, and integrating mandatory global health education into medical school curricula. Discussion: We suggest that attention to only PDT is not enough. In a socially accountable program, community partnerships must be bilateral and respect communities as primary stakeholders in the training of students and in program evaluation. Unfortunately, research to-date has focused on the student experience; further studies of the community perspective would help to elicit how PDT and partnership models can be strengthened, improving the experiences of both students and communities. Finally, individual medical schools and organizations that offer global health elective experiences must ensure that they take responsibility for monitoring PDT.

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