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Where in the World are our med Students? The Importance of Global Health

April 9, 2018

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Merck Manuals Survey: Medical Students Seek

Global Health Experiences to Enhance their Education

92% of students surveyed plan to get involved in global health during their medical careers.

With an increasing number of global health programs available to medical students, a new survey found that many students are taking advantage of opportunities to enhance their education and provide needed resources to developing areas of the world.

To uncover students’ motivations and aspirations in global health, the Merck Manuals surveyed 130 students at the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) Annual Convention in March. Respondents included medical and pre-medical students representing domestic and international universities and programs.

When asked about their top motivation for getting involved in global health, a majority of students (59 percent) said they want to provide health care where it’s needed most. Fourteen percent say they have an interest in studying infectious diseases and conditions, and 10 percent want to have cross-cultural experiences.

Many students intend to turn this inspiration into action by experiencing healthcare systems around the world firsthand. Students who plan to get involved in global health said they are planning to:

Take short-term service trips to underdeveloped areas (65 percent)
Engage in research to solve global healthcare issues (38 percent)
Pursue long-term clinical work in underdeveloped areas (33 percent)
Work with a non-governmental organization (NGO) (22 percent)

“In May, I’ll be traveling with a group of students to Peru for six weeks to support doctors and medical staff in local clinics,” said Lauren, a student from Brigham Young University who participated in the survey. “But my ultimate goal is to have a long-term impact on these communities; not just treating conditions but also helping people change their lifestyles so disease can be prevented in future generations. It’s about teaching a community about healthy practices so they can support each other once we leave.”

In preparation for a career in medicine, many students have already taken steps to enhance their global health education. Of the students who plan to get involved in global health:

- 61 percent say they have volunteered in underserved communities at home
- 42 percent say they have learned (or am learning) a new language
- 40 percent say they have traveled abroad to help underserved communities
- 33 percent say they have participated in relevant classes, research or student groups

“My experiences providing care at a children’s hospital in Senegal, West Africa, changed my entire perspective about medicine and why I wanted to pursue a career as a doctor. They were working with such limited resources, yet this great team of doctors could do so much for the children there,” said Naheed, who studied at St. Christopher’s College of Medicine. “In the U.S., we take our vaccinations and medicines for granted, which is why it’s very important to be exposed to global health issues.”

When traveling to developing areas of the world, it’s critical to have credible medical information within reach. Students and healthcare professionals traveling abroad can reference a free, comprehensive library of reference articles on diseases, symptoms and treatments on MerckManuals.com, which is available in 10 languages.

Additionally, the Merck Manuals Consumer and Professional mobile apps offer users the same trusted medical information. Once the apps are downloaded, this content is stored on the device and is accessible without an internet connection. Both mobile apps are available in the Apple iTunes Store and Google Play Store.

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