A Fogarty Clinical Research Scholar, Justin List, has coauthored a paper accepted by The Medscape Journal of Medicine on the "service learning" aspects of his and colleagues' experiences in the program.
The Scholars program sends U.S. medical students abroad, pairing them with scholars in their own countries to work under the mentorship of Center grantees. (See related article "Fogarty Scholars train here and abroad.") Justin List is in Uganda, and, in the article, he weighs the risks and benefits of such opportunities.
"The risks and concerns include negative features of medical tourism and leaving students paralyzed by intense experiences abroad," he writes, with coauthor Dr. Kayhan Parsi of Loyola's Stritch School of Medicine. "Most important, the risk for dependence on or resentment toward medical students exists."
The risks may be reduced, however, they say, though programs that promote "cultural sensitivity, individual and community empowerment and education in the historical and global forces that shape communities abroad."
Aside from the clinical skills they may learn, "Students engaged in service learning in some of the most impoverished places experience a burden of knowledge that for many demands a response and unparalleled opportunity to address disparities." In addition, the authors say, learning "cultivates essential citizenship skills" that align with an increasingly valued public role physicians want.
The role of mentors is critical, say Parsi and List, because "Medical educators who can further empower these students through training in critical reflection and response stand to inspire a broader movement for more justice in global health.
"Preparing Medical Students for the World: Service Learning and Global Health Justice." Kayhan Parsi and Justin List. Medscape J Med. 2008;10(11):268