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Career Influence of an International Health Experience During Medical School

Alan H. Ramsey; Cynthia Haq; Craig L. Gjerde; Debra Rothenberg

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: International health (IH) experiences are popular among medical students and may influence career choices. The International Health Fellowship Program (IHFP) consisted of preparatory coursework and field experience in a developing country. We conducted a survey 4-7 years later to assess the career influence of IHFP participation.

METHODS: Fellows completed a questionnaire regarding training, practice setting, patient population, further international work, and knowledge and attitudes about IH.

RESULTS: Surveys were completed by 42 (70%) fellows; 31% spend most of their time working with underserved populations, 67% have been involved in community health projects, 74% practice primary care, 29% have an MPH degree, 57% have done further work in developing countries, while 90% named one or more barriers to further IH experiences. Knowledge and attitudes about IH were largely retained. Most fellows (67%) believed the IHFP influenced their careers.

CONCLUSIONS: Most fellows felt that IHFP participation had a positive influence on their careers. While a causative relationship cannot be inferred, fellows demonstrate a strong preference to work with underserved populations and engage in community service activities. Compared with US physicians, IHFP fellows are more likely to practice primary care and obtain MPH degrees. Medical schools that seek to produce graduates with these qualities should make efforts to increase quality IH opportunities for their students.


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