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International elective = flighty?

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LadyGrey

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I was reading the stuff about choosing fourth year electives in Iserson's guide, and was surprised that he's so negative about international rotations. He said they can look flighty and aren't something you should do in the all-important first half of fourth year.

I've been thinking strongly about doing a medical Spanish program, either Pop-Wuj in Guatemala or the MedSpanish program in Mexico, so this gave me pause. I thought it would be a clearly positive thing to be able to mention proficiency in Spanish to a program. (I have enough background from college that I think a month of immersion plus intense study would make me pretty decent).

Has anyone else heard this view that international electives are looked down upon?
 

colbgw02

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Your school may be different, but my school's administration categorically denied any credit for international programs that included a significant language component during the clinical years. They cited that the rotations were to be fully clinically oriented. Now, they might have just been being jerks, but I'm assuming that they were getting guidance from their accreditation body, which means that same standard probably would apply to your school.

You could also consider going during one of your free months.
 

DarthNeurology

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I was reading the stuff about choosing fourth year electives in Iserson's guide, and was surprised that he's so negative about international rotations. He said they can look flighty and aren't something you should do in the all-important first half of fourth year.

I've been thinking strongly about doing a medical Spanish program, either Pop-Wuj in Guatemala or the MedSpanish program in Mexico, so this gave me pause. I thought it would be a clearly positive thing to be able to mention proficiency in Spanish to a program. (I have enough background from college that I think a month of immersion plus intense study would make me pretty decent).

Has anyone else heard this view that international electives are looked down upon?

A lot of school's look down on international electives in a way, i.e. they are things to do unofficially between 2nd and 3rd year if you want to speak spanish, I have friends who have spent a lot more than a summer abroad and not even fluent in spanish, but it is a start, but there is a world of difference between fluency and did a summer in Guatemala, i.e. you will lose all of what you learned if you don't practice it, and you will still need to use an interpreter for important questions and explanations. I would use fourth year electives for medically related stuff, learning spanish abroad is what college and premed is for, it is OK to do during medical school, . . . unless you are also in a clinic, I don't think most program director would be impressed with having done an elective to try to learn some spanish, it is good, but shouldn't be the basis for acceptance to a residency.
 

Ypo.

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Whoah, whoa whoa. Just because you are doing an elective at an international site does not mean you aren't getting a good clinical experience as well.

I'm going with a team of doctors in the fall. I will be seeing patients on my own and reporting back to one of the doctors who will be signing all the orders, etc...

It depends on how you set it up. If you go on one of those professional medical tours which have a language component built into it, then i agree it's going to be light on clinical (and it's something you should have done after first year or earlier).
 

LadyGrey

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I said proficient, not fluent, because I know real fluency takes a lot more than some college language study and a month of immersion.

And I wasn't trying to say that I thought it would be some kind of magical key to residency, just that it would look neutral-to-good rather than bad.

Anyway, I appreciate the perspectives here. Sorry if I'm being snippy -- I'm just frustrated because it's something I'd love to do and never had the combination of time and money to do before, but I can understand the downsides. I could probably get credit for something purely clinical, but I think I'd benefit most in my future from something with a combination of clinical and language experience.
 

akpete

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I would say that my school encourages international electives; however, you have to do a bit of legwork to get it to count for credit. Paperwork and approval from one of the deans. So it's easier if the school is familiar with the program. We also have a couple international electives in our course catalog where you can bypass all the extra work to get it approved.

I'm sure they look for a substantial amount of clinical work for approval, but I'm not sure how much.

I'm going to Belize next April and very excited! Granted I won't be able to talk about it on residency interviews being after the match and all, but I just didn't have time in my schedule prior to February or April. (We have to be present for match day, so March is out). Also, won't be learning a substantial amount of Spanish there.
 

akpete

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I could probably get credit for something purely clinical, but I think I'd benefit most in my future from something with a combination of clinical and language experience.

you could always burn a vacation if you really want the elective you have in mind and can't get credit for it.
 

SoCuteMD

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It depends on how you set it up. If you go on one of those professional medical tours which have a language component built into it, then i agree it's going to be light on clinical (and it's something you should have done after first year or earlier).

I don't see any reason that a 4th year elective can't be "light on clinical work" with a bigger language component. It's nice to say that someone "should have" done it after first year, but there were those of us who had mortgages to pay that summer or other commitments. Not to mention that I used that summer to produce and present research - something that I would have received credit for had I done it in my fourth year. Why shouldn't I get my "easy" credits for language instead of starting another research project that I probably won't be able to carry with me to residency?
 

DarthNeurology

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I said proficient, not fluent, because I know real fluency takes a lot more than some college language study and a month of immersion.

And I wasn't trying to say that I thought it would be some kind of magical key to residency, just that it would look neutral-to-good rather than bad.

Anyway, I appreciate the perspectives here. Sorry if I'm being snippy -- I'm just frustrated because it's something I'd love to do and never had the combination of time and money to do before, but I can understand the downsides. I could probably get credit for something purely clinical, but I think I'd benefit most in my future from something with a combination of clinical and language experience.

Be careful how you advertise yourself after the experience as "perficient" sort of denotes the same thing as "fluent", you should just say you know "basic conversational spanish", i.e. you can ask the patient if he/she has pain in a.m. but shouldn't be doing H and Ps, . . . i.e. you can't ask open ended questions well , also medical spanish is a whole other ballgame,
 

MeowMix

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I think Spanish proficiency at almost any level is desirable in residency applications. It would be ideal to go into the application process already proficient, but if you can't manage that, it's not a big deal to go after Christmas of fourth year. (I advocate waiting until then because that is when all desire to do real clinical electives seems to disappear, and my friends and I want only to enjoy ourselves.) Our school makes it easy to get credit; hopefully yours does too.

I don't understand why everyone is jumping all over you, since you seem to be very realistic about what you're going to learn and very well-intentioned. Go ahead and do it, and have a good time. Even better if you can focus on the language learning and skip the token clinical experience.

p.s. this crap about how you should have done it in kindergarten or earlier is exactly that, crap. That's why some programs are happy when their residents go off to learn Spanish DURING residency, because it makes such a difference.
 

Ypo.

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I don't see any reason that a 4th year elective can't be "light on clinical work" with a bigger language component. It's nice to say that someone "should have" done it after first year, but there were those of us who had mortgages to pay that summer or other commitments. Not to mention that I used that summer to produce and present research - something that I would have received credit for had I done it in my fourth year. Why shouldn't I get my "easy" credits for language instead of starting another research project that I probably won't be able to carry with me to residency?

Why should someone get clinical credit for taking a language class in a foreign country? That's something you could do in undergrad, or on your own vacation time. However, that's just my opinion. Obviously whether or not you can get credit depends on your school. And if you can get credit for it, more power to you. I do wonder if a residency director might consider it more "fluff" but if your application doesn't need any more padding, who cares.

For my international elective I'll only be in the clinic for two weeks. This is due to the fact that I was unable to find another US trained physician to work with for the rest of the month. I looked at those "language programs for medical students" but they basically just looked like a language class with some shadowing. They were expensive, and it seemed more like a baby sitting service than anything; I wanted to do some volunteering as well. I ended up working something out with my clerkship director where for the rest of the time I'll be conducting a community needs assessment. We'll be using the information from the needs assessment to continue our project when we return in 2009, right before I start residency.
 

SoCuteMD

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Why should someone get clinical credit for taking a language class in a foreign country? That's something you could do in undergrad, or on your own vacation time. However, that's just my opinion. Obviously whether or not you can get credit depends on your school. And if you can get credit for it, more power to you. I do wonder if a residency director might consider it more "fluff" but if your application doesn't need any more padding, who cares.

Frankly, any residency director in an inner city or in any of the locales populated with Spanish-speaking folks probably wouldn't look at it as "fluff" but rather good preparation for intern year and being proactive. I can do a SICU rotation any time I want during residency, but four weeks of immersion language experience are something that I won't have a chance to do for another 3-7 years (depending on my specialty).

Why shouldn't someone get credit for language study during medical school? As far as I'm aware, there's no requirement that the 3rd and 4th years in medical school be entirely clinical. People get credit for bench research, MPH students at my school get credit for work on their thesis, and many schools have a real "fluff" elective or two so that people can get credit during interview season.

It would have been nice to take language classes during undergrad. Unfortunately, in my four years I had time for exactly 3 electives, if I took the French placement I'd earned. Starting a language from scratch and working my way through the introductory classes (with extra language labs) was not exactly something I had time for. As for vacation time - what vacation time? I've had 7 weeks of non-Christmas time vacation since I started medical school. It would have been nice to go abroad for that, but I had a mortgage to pay, and I'm not big on asking Mommy and Daddy to foot the bill.

I'm really glad that my school appears to have a more flexible approach to medical education.
 

Ypo.

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Frankly, any residency director in an inner city or in any of the locales populated with Spanish-speaking folks probably wouldn't look at it as "fluff" but rather good preparation for intern year and being proactive. I can do a SICU rotation any time I want during residency, but four weeks of immersion language experience are something that I won't have a chance to do for another 3-7 years (depending on my specialty).

Why shouldn't someone get credit for language study during medical school? As far as I'm aware, there's no requirement that the 3rd and 4th years in medical school be entirely clinical. People get credit for bench research, MPH students at my school get credit for work on their thesis, and many schools have a real "fluff" elective or two so that people can get credit during interview season.

It would have been nice to take language classes during undergrad. Unfortunately, in my four years I had time for exactly 3 electives, if I took the French placement I'd earned. Starting a language from scratch and working my way through the introductory classes (with extra language labs) was not exactly something I had time for. As for vacation time - what vacation time? I've had 7 weeks of non-Christmas time vacation since I started medical school. It would have been nice to go abroad for that, but I had a mortgage to pay, and I'm not big on asking Mommy and Daddy to foot the bill.

I'm really glad that my school appears to have a more flexible approach to medical education.


Did I do something to piss you off? :confused: I already made it clear that what I said was my opinion; not a rule that medical schools adhere to. If anything, it was added more as an afterthought (after another poster had already brought it up). I didn't mean to imply that you can't take a language course during your fourth year and not get credit; although I would argue that most electives, while not necessarily clinical, should have something to do with medicine.


The main reason I posted in this thread was to point out that not all international electives are fluff on clinicals. Tranquila, chica! Enjoy your fourth year international elective.
 

SoCuteMD

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Did I do something to piss you off? :confused: I already made it clear that what I said was my opinion; not a rule that medical schools adhere to. If anything, it was added more as an afterthought (after another poster had already brought it up). I didn't mean to imply that you can't take a language course during your fourth year and not get credit; although I would argue that most electives, while not necessarily clinical, should have something to do with medicine.

I tend to get annoyed when people make broad, sweeping statements like, "You should have done that earlier" that imply they have some insight or knowledge into other people's circumstances.

I'm actually not going abroad - don't have the time in my 4th year schedule or the money.

Oh, and thanks, but I'm actually perfectly calm.
 

Tired

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If you want to be a doctor, then go to medical school.

If you want to learn Spanish, date a Latina chick.

You won't get med school credit for learning Spanish, but you can learn a lot of anatomy from hooking up with a hot babe.

Obviously you should do the Latina chick, rather than the Medical Spanish elective.

Get your priorities straight, kiddo.
 

Ypo.

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I tend to get annoyed when people make broad, sweeping statements like, "You should have done that earlier" that imply they have some insight or knowledge into other people's circumstances.

I'm actually not going abroad - don't have the time in my 4th year schedule or the money.

Oh, and thanks, but I'm actually perfectly calm.

You don't sound like it. If anything it looks like you are actively trying to take offense. And then, after all that fuss, you are now saying you were never even planning on doing an abroad elective. The only thing I can imagine that bothered you was my use of the word "should." Let me again try to clarify for you; I don't feel that strongly about it and had I known that someone having a bad day would have taken such offense to it, I would have been careful to say something more like "in my opinion, it's probably better to do a pure language course earlier in med school or undergrad or else to do it on your vacation time." I have NO knowledge of your personal circumstances and I made no judgment on you. To be honest with you, I really have no clue what is bothering you, but I can assure you I never meant to insult you, be condescending or tell you what to do with your life.

And in the future, (just so you know), I don't appreciate PMs such as the one you sent. Are we 13 years old exchanging messages on myspace??

Socute; I've always liked you and never had a problem with you, and have even stuck up for you on other threads. I truly meant the "tranquila" to be friendly. I really hope you'll consider that the post you are taking such offense to in this thread was a) not addressed to you personally, and b) never meant in the way that you are taking it. Otherwise, feel free to put me on your ignore list.
 

Tired

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And in the future, (just so you know), I don't appreciate PMs such as the one you sent. Are we 13 years old exchanging messages on myspace??

The mod screening has really fallen apart lately.
 

smq123

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I've been thinking strongly about doing a medical Spanish program, either Pop-Wuj in Guatemala or the MedSpanish program in Mexico, so this gave me pause. I thought it would be a clearly positive thing to be able to mention proficiency in Spanish to a program. (I have enough background from college that I think a month of immersion plus intense study would make me pretty decent).

Has anyone else heard this view that international electives are looked down upon?

I have not heard a lot of negative things about international electives, but I imagine it really depends on what you are applying for.

If you're applying for ortho or derm, you are probably wasting a block, that would be better spent on auditioning or doing really good research. If you're applying for Family Med, EM, or psych, then it may be quite helpful.

That being said, I do not really agree that you need to do an abroad medical Spanish program in order to gain proficiency. I actually think that it would be more valuable to set up a rotation at a community health clinic that serves mostly Hispanic patients. For starters, if you did that, you'd definitely get good clinical experience. Furthermore, it'd be more valuable to you, in my opinion, because the biggest challenge (for me) with Hispanic patients is understanding their issues as immigrants. Interacting with a Mexican immigrant who is in NYC illegally is VERY different from interacting with a Mexican who is in his hometown. (Plus, the slang that Mexican immigrants have developed kills me, although it's not nearly as bad as the Puerto Rican slang.)

I do know a number of people (in med school and undergrad) who did those immersion programs - their Spanish, when they came back, wasn't all that much better than when they left.

If you want to learn Spanish, date a Latina chick.

What about those of us who aren't into "chicks"? :confused:
 

SoCuteMD

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For those who are interested in traveling: Here's a list of medical spanish programs, some of which BU apparently offers credit for.

There's another program I found that has arranged credit with an American medical school. I'll try to find it when I get home tonight.
 

MeowMix

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I actually think that it would be more valuable to set up a rotation at a community health clinic that serves mostly Hispanic patients. For starters, if you did that, you'd definitely get good clinical experience. Furthermore, it'd be more valuable to you, in my opinion, because the biggest challenge (for me) with Hispanic patients is understanding their issues as immigrants.

In 4 weeks in Mexico, with good effort (i.e. not going out partying with other Americans), you could learn at least as much Spanish as you would learn in 1 year of working in a community health clinic in the US. Trust me, I did both.

If you want to understand immigrants' issues, you will learn a whole lot from being in Mexico, where you see the direct impact of families affected by immigration to the US. You will also meet many, many people who lived and worked in the US and went back home. And people talk much more freely when they are in their own home country and there are no possible repercussions of telling you exactly how they crossed the border and how many times.

I have translated many, many times in the ED and on the floor for ortho residents with no other option, and my personal opinion is that Spanish would be a valuable skill for ortho residents to have.

Do whatever appeals to you, and works based on your finances and personal situation. There is no one right way to do this.
 
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