The programs rely on visiting faculty. Those who volunteer use an English language curriculum and include surgeons of all specialties, as well as gastroenterologists, anesthesiologists, radiologists, and pathologists. The terms of service run from two weeks to six months.
Explore This IssueSeptember 2009
Medical Education International, another group giving time to overseas training, sends teams of graduate physicians and dentists oversees to train, teach, and mentor other medical professionals. The aim is to build relationships with overseas colleagues to help them improve the health care of their own populations, including that of Kenya, where Dr. Smith has worked.
We’ve modified the courses to be more relevant to the countries that they’re in, Dr. Smith said. And one of most rewarding parts of this is that in the last two or three years we’ve been training the national physicians to give these courses, and they are now starting to do them around the country and want to start to do them in the countries around Kenya.
Just being able to communicate with the people teaching them was a big deal, he said. One of the things that was interesting was how much those attending appreciated the interaction with the faculty, Dr. Smith said. Most of them were used to being in medical schools where the faculty hardly would talk to them, and to have somebody answer your questions and have an interaction with was greatly appreciated.
Other relevant organizations include the AAO and REI in Vietnam and Cuba; the American College of Surgeons’ Operation Giving Back program, a resource meant to connect surgeons with volunteer opportunities, including those in other parts of the world; Operation Smile, a charity for treating facial deformities around the world; Medical Teams International, a Christian global health organization; and Smile Train, an international charity providing cleft lip and cleft palate surgery.
How to Get Involved
Dr. Smith-who also spent two and a half years working in Singapore, where he helped several training programs come together as one, improved program-suggested that those who want to volunteer overseas go with a friend or an established team the first time. They should research what is out there, whether it’s a chance to do lecturing, modeling of patient care, or evidence-based medicine or mentoring.
There are opportunities to volunteer for as long or as short time as doctors want. Terms can last for short periods of one to four weeks, intermediate periods of one month to a year, or longer terms of more than a year, he said.