Dec 19, 2013
22
8
East Lansing, Michigan
Status
Medical Student
I was considering attending a medical mission trip (non religious) in South America over spring break rather than attend a much cheaper relaxing trip in the US. I want to know whether the extra cash (about $1000 more) and missing a few days of very difficult college courses is worth it for a medical school application. Is it looked down on because anyone can pay to do it? Or is it a good addition for experience?

-I have shadowing and volunteer experiences at multiple hospitals
-I will be a research assistant for a psychology research experiment this spring
-I help to run a charity in a hospital and have hundreds of hours working for this charity
-I am a member of multiple clubs including Golden Key, Pre-professional society, and founding member of the Italian club at my school
-I help plan and run charity events multiple times a year at my school
-I am a tutor for many science and math classes

My GPA will be approximately 3.65 overall and 3.4 science, however my MCAT scores from practice tests look promising

Do I need more experience and is this a good way to get it? Or not worth it?
 

rfvbnmju

5+ Year Member
Nov 12, 2012
308
34
Status
Pre-Medical
http://forums.studentdoctor.net/index.php?threads/994079/

This link has some further info as to why it's won't be substantial.

In general, it would look a lot better if you did something long term and in the US such as a free clinic. There are plenty of people that need help here in the US also.

I have been accepted to a med school that's big on volunteering. I did a one year volunteer teaching at an inner city elementary school (not teach for America) but didn't go anywhere international.

If you want to go international, go for a fun trip.
Hope that helps you.
 
Nov 21, 2012
645
317
Status
Will it directly affect your application much? Probably not. Will it be an awesome life experience? Absolutely.

I actually made the connections that got me a very competitive RA job on a medical mission, so indirectly it was probably the most important thing I've done in terms of building my medical school resume.
 

pietachok

10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Dec 19, 2008
969
174
Status
Medical Student
You seem to have a lot of other ECs that support your interest & commitment to medicine.

I feel like "medical missions" that accept completely untrained/unskilled participants rub a lot of people the wrong way. It highlights your privilege that you can pay to participate. And many ethical concerns have recently been raised about these programs allowing students to offer care, services, & procedures that they would be unqualified to perform in the US. Since you're returning to the comfort of your own home after it's sufficiently bolstered your CV, it can feel a bit like you're profiting from others' misfortune.

You can go on such trips during or after residency when you're actually qualified to help people through a reputable organization/program.
 

Jennyfishy

5+ Year Member
Mar 24, 2013
1,135
611
WI
Status
Medical Student
I have mixed thoughts on mission trips or short-term volunteer service projects in general due to the fact that it's not enough time to enact any "long-lasting" change and often has more negative consequences on the people you are trying to help. Many people I know go on these trips as a "checklist" type item in hopes of it giving them them an edge over other applicants, but pretty much everyone does it, and the money spent on those travel expenses could go a lot further for clinics closer to your direct community.

However, it is still a good experience to have if you have no experience with understanding the different health issues that different countries and cultures face, as long as you are not doing anything you would not legally be allowed to perform in the states. There is a fine line of ethics that many Pre-Meds often cross because they are blinded by the possibility of gaining "awesome experiences" to talk about in their personal statements. I know people who assisted with invasive surgical procedures in Vietnam for free, which was "good" since the people there would not be able to afford seeing a doctor or any kind of treatment but "bad" because obviously no undergrad is licensed to perform an extraction procedure or certified to perform medical sutures on other people. Needless to say, this did not go well in many of their interviews/application cycles. Also, once the trip is over, how many people actually follow up and continue furthering their service and knowledge to the underserved communities they spent 2-3 weeks with?

Once you have some basic training and exposure in medical school (or once you're in residency) there are a lot of programs that will allow you to go abroad and actually provide some type of care that is less problematic than what you could provide as an undergrad/pre-med though. You could look into that, as there are several schools that have pretty well-developed global health programs/initiatives. =)
 
  • Like
Reactions: SunsFun
Sep 23, 2013
98
35
Status
Pre-Medical
While I get the ethical issues proposed around these 2-3 week trips, what I don't understand is how it can be suggested that just sending the money would prove to be better/more helpful. I am of the opinion that these trips can be mutually beneficial for both the underserved community and the person going on the trip. Being able to see how health care works on the international stage, and especially an underservered area of the world can certainly help make you much more sensitive to the disadvantages of others. Also, you can experience just how different cultures and areas of the world handle health care issues. As a future physician, wouldn't having experiences with different cultures and with underserved communities be beneficial? Especially if you want to work in areas where you are exposed to several different people from different cultures.

That's just my thought
 

Reckoner

Lacks theology and geometry
7+ Year Member
Sep 27, 2011
1,380
2,955
Status
MD/PhD Student
OP, there's still an important question we need to get answered so we can give you the best possible advice:















Are you the one on the left, the right, or in the middle?
 

LizzyM

the evil queen of numbers
10+ Year Member
Mar 7, 2005
22,941
31,579
Status
Academic Administration
While I get the ethical issues proposed around these 2-3 week trips, what I don't understand is how it can be suggested that just sending the money would prove to be better/more helpful. I am of the opinion that these trips can be mutually beneficial for both the underserved community and the person going on the trip. Being able to see how health care works on the international stage, and especially an underservered area of the world can certainly help make you much more sensitive to the disadvantages of others. Also, you can experience just how different cultures and areas of the world handle health care issues. As a future physician, wouldn't having experiences with different cultures and with underserved communities be beneficial? Especially if you want to work in areas where you are exposed to several different people from different cultures.

That's just my thought
Sending money to an established charity that provides education and economic development to an area will go further than showing up for a week or two with good intentions.

Wouldn't these folks be better served by people who know their language, culture and the epidemiology of disease in their region, who will be there for follow-up, and who develop referral networks with larger facilities. Why would anyone go into these communities with a fee for service model (even a very modest fee & a sliding scale) when gringos are showing up providing care for free?

How do you expect to learn about culture in 7 days?

Many of the conditions you may see will be related to poorly ventilated cooking fires, lack of access to clean water, and poor waste disposal. Civil engineering & public health, more than medical care is what is needed in many communities.

Have you ever considered that you are using these people and not serving them?
 

Planes2Doc

Residency is ruff!
7+ Year Member
Jul 23, 2012
2,745
2,304
The South
Status
Resident [Any Field]
The extra $1000 might be better spent on using it for a true overseas vacation. OP, you already have a strong application, so this mission trip might not help or can actually hurt you.

Think of it this way though. You won't have too much time to enjoy your life when you're in medical school. So go on a website like Expedia and look up air and hotel packages in random parts of the world. You'll be doing a lot more for yourself than a mission trip would. You might even be able to talk about the experience at interviews. :)
 

masaraksh

7+ Year Member
Sep 12, 2011
1,791
2,147
Northeast
Status
Medical Student
Darn, just made me remember about Golden Key. I got something from them in the mail when I was in college (but I ended up not paying/joining).

As for the missions trip, I feel like adcoms might see it more as a resume-building vacation. In college I always went on ski trips to local mountains with my friends during Feb break.
 

Great White Buffalo

5+ Year Member
Nov 13, 2013
456
336
Status
Medical Student
Sending money to an established charity that provides education and economic development to an area will go further than showing up for a week or two with good intentions.

Wouldn't these folks be better served by people who know their language, culture and the epidemiology of disease in their region, who will be there for follow-up, and who develop referral networks with larger facilities. Why would anyone go into these communities with a fee for service model (even a very modest fee & a sliding scale) when gringos are showing up providing care for free?

How do you expect to learn about culture in 7 days?

Many of the conditions you may see will be related to poorly ventilated cooking fires, lack of access to clean water, and poor waste disposal. Civil engineering & public health, more than medical care is what is needed in many communities.

Have you ever considered that you are using these people and not serving them?

Well, I think the whole medical-industrial complex is really profiting off the unfortunate bad luck of the patients who get really sick. Doctors and hospitals are making money off others' illnesses. Serving folks in a volunteer capacity is much more noble than doing it for pay, IMHO. And don't get me going on the health system CEOs bringing in $700K - $1M a year.
 
  • Like
Reactions: highhopes92

LizzyM

the evil queen of numbers
10+ Year Member
Mar 7, 2005
22,941
31,579
Status
Academic Administration
Well, I think the whole medical-industrial complex is really profiting off the unfortunate bad luck of the patients who get really sick. Doctors and hospitals are making money off others' illnesses. Serving folks in a volunteer capacity is much more noble than doing it for pay, IMHO. And don't get me going on the health system CEOs bringing in $700K - $1M a year.
Should people in rural areas be at the mercy of good hearted people who come to town as part of a mission trip with no follow-up or permanent records of treatments provided? Is the fact the care free make it ok to provide what we would consider unacceptable if it were done by visiting South American physicians who did not speak English and who set up free clinic in church hall for week once a year.

And yes, health care providers and their institutions make money caring for the sick. Would you propose that the only care available to the sick should be provided by unpaid volunteers in facilities operated as charities?
 

Goro

7+ Year Member
Jun 10, 2010
52,687
76,463
Somewhere west of St. Louis
Status
Non-Student
One of the big problems with medical missions is that unless they're for a prolonged period of time, a la the Peace Corps, they are perceived, especially by my clinical colleagues, as "medical tourism".

These things add little to an application. You would be better served by local community service. South America would be better served by a direct donation.
 

SunsFun

VICE president
7+ Year Member
Jun 22, 2011
2,621
1,237
Pannotia
While I get the ethical issues proposed around these 2-3 week trips, what I don't understand is how it can be suggested that just sending the money would prove to be better/more helpful. I am of the opinion that these trips can be mutually beneficial for both the underserved community and the person going on the trip. Being able to see how health care works on the international stage, and especially an underservered area of the world can certainly help make you much more sensitive to the disadvantages of others. Also, you can experience just how different cultures and areas of the world handle health care issues. As a future physician, wouldn't having experiences with different cultures and with underserved communities be beneficial? Especially if you want to work in areas where you are exposed to several different people from different cultures.

That's just my thought
As a person who spent the first 15 years of my life overseas, I can tell you that you will not learn anything about how healthcare works on international stage or in a different culture in 2 weeks.
 
Aug 27, 2013
503
158
Status
Medical Student
My opinion may seem harsh but it comes from my experiences: If you have to ask if it is worth it, it is already not worth it for you. You would be better served doing a local service opportunity that is more personal, and that you would be interested in sharing and talking about in an interview. So if you doubt it's worth it, it wont be anyway.
 

TheWeeIceMan

And like that... *poof*... he's gone.
10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Apr 8, 2009
3,500
2,372
OP, there's still an important question we need to get answered so we can give you the best possible advice:















Are you the one on the left, the right, or in the middle?
:thumbup: Finally, someone is asking the hard hitting questions.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Reckoner

lobo.solo

7+ Year Member
May 4, 2011
1,952
119
Status
Medical Student
You have no training whatsoever to be helpful to people... So no
 

Cinabonchik

5+ Year Member
Sep 30, 2013
139
56
Status
Resident [Any Field]
I was considering attending a medical mission trip (non religious) in South America over spring break rather than attend a much cheaper relaxing trip in the US. I want to know whether the extra cash (about $1000 more) and missing a few days of very difficult college courses is worth it for a medical school application. Is it looked down on because anyone can pay to do it? Or is it a good addition for experience?

-I have shadowing and volunteer experiences at multiple hospitals
-I will be a research assistant for a psychology research experiment this spring
-I help to run a charity in a hospital and have hundreds of hours working for this charity
-I am a member of multiple clubs including Golden Key, Pre-professional society, and founding member of the Italian club at my school
-I help plan and run charity events multiple times a year at my school
-I am a tutor for many science and math classes

My GPA will be approximately 3.65 overall and 3.4 science, however my MCAT scores from practice tests look promising

Do I need more experience and is this a good way to get it? Or not worth it?
I organize yearly medical mission trips to Mexico.So far I had two interviews and both times my interviewers were very interested, and had a positive attitude regarding my trips. how much that have helped me? I don't know yet, and I don't care if it will help me or not I will continue doing it because I love mission trips. I also do a lot of local community work.

I would say, that you should go on a medical mission trip not just to get into med school, but because you love it!
 

Ace-Co-A

As & Is
5+ Year Member
Jul 9, 2012
1,121
908
Port-au-Prince
Status
Medical Student
I have been on similar trips and, in general, I didn't feel particularly helpful. Similar to other SDNers that have posted in this thread, I don't recommend going on them because, even though my experiences were personally beneficial, I fear that one week of work from a non-medically-trained 20-something simply won't change the problems that devastate the underprivileged communities of developing nations. There are probably some situations for which this rule of thumb doesn't apply - for example, non-medically-trained folks who went to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 to lend their hands in relief efforts - but these are exceptional cases.

My views on humanitarian work have been formed in large part by Dr. James Orbinski, formerly of
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). In the conversation portion of this lecture at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), Orbinski shares his views on how medical students (& others!) interested in serving the poor can contribute (i.e., by first mastering a domain of knowledge and learning a useful second language, among other things). I encourage you to take a peak at Orbinski's talk (and to check out/donate to MSF!).
 
  • Like
Reactions: Great White Buffalo

pietachok

10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Dec 19, 2008
969
174
Status
Medical Student
I organize yearly medical mission trips to Mexico.So far I had two interviews and both times my interviewers were very interested, and had a positive attitude regarding my trips.
Without getting into nitty gritty about how effective your trips are, organizing a trip and going on a trip are two different things that show different levels of commitment and interest. Likewise doing this *yearly* as opposed to once shows something different than what the OP would show by going on one trip.

I would say, that you should go on a medical mission trip not just to get into med school, but because you love it!
When I read the OP's post, I don't see someone who loves it. I see someone who is ambivalent about the mission and loves the idea of getting into medical school.
 
  • Like
Reactions: DokterMom

Great White Buffalo

5+ Year Member
Nov 13, 2013
456
336
Status
Medical Student
Should people in rural areas be at the mercy of good hearted people who come to town as part of a mission trip with no follow-up or permanent records of treatments provided? Is the fact the care free make it ok to provide what we would consider unacceptable if it were done by visiting South American physicians who did not speak English and who set up free clinic in church hall for week once a year.

And yes, health care providers and their institutions make money caring for the sick. Would you propose that the only care available to the sick should be provided by unpaid volunteers in facilities operated as charities?
If this was the only care available, yes, I think it worth it. My sister did a mission to Honduras at a clinic that helped folks who were not getting any care at all by the local institutions. Are we being empiralist, maybe. But folks arev
Should people in rural areas be at the mercy of good hearted people who come to town as part of a mission trip with no follow-up or permanent records of treatments provided? Is the fact the care free make it ok to provide what we would consider unacceptable if it were done by visiting South American physicians who did not speak English and who set up free clinic in church hall for week once a year.

And yes, health care providers and their institutions make money caring for the sick. Would you propose that the only care available to the sick should be provided by unpaid volunteers in facilities operated as charities?

Yes, but I'm also a proponent of single payer, government paying healthcare. Call me a socialist!!
 

Planes2Doc

Residency is ruff!
7+ Year Member
Jul 23, 2012
2,745
2,304
The South
Status
Resident [Any Field]
When I read the OP's post, I don't see someone who loves it. I see someone who is ambivalent about the mission and loves the idea of getting into medical school.
When I read any post about volunteering and similar ECs, I see people who only love the idea of getting into medical school. All I hear is people asking how these activities can help them, but never have I heard asking how they can help more people.

Therefore, I wouldn't blame the OP or any other pre-med. Hate the game, not the players. People put everything on the line to get into medical school. Why would they not do everything in their power to get in? No wonder short-term mission trips look mighty sexy to unknowing applicants.
 
Aug 8, 2013
1,395
903
Michigan
Status
Medical Student
I wanted to briefly touch on the criticism mentioned a few times: how unskilled premeds aren't of any help. I don't agree. While it is true that volunteers with no medical knowledge can't help medically, they can definitely help administratively and by performing low skill labor. Imagine a team of residents who are running a makeshift clinic. Someone has to take blood pressures, someone has to fetch drugs and write out directions in the right language (how many pills, how often, with food, etc), someone has to clean up and organize shelves, someone has to organize lunch. Every medical trip has room for at least one support person so that the medically trained volunteers can actually do their jobs and not be slowed down by the need to do non clinical and general "gofor" tasks.

edit: totally agree about not spending money, but consider that some colleges will give grants to students who want to volunteer abroad...there are options out there
 
  • Like
Reactions: Great White Buffalo

vasca

En la era postpasambre
10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Nov 7, 2008
1,155
23
Chilangolandia nuevamente
Status
As a person that has been to Guatemala two times for tourism (it's an awesome country and can't wait to come back for my No. 3), you can do these people a lot of good by just coming as a tourist and visit the off the beaten track villages without spending 30,000 dollars. On my first trip for 12 days I probably only spent like 700 USD, probably not even that and that is including the cost of a roundtrip plane ticket. If you don't go heavy on that wonderful Gallo beer (I know it's so damn good you want to buy 20 boxes of the stuff), Guatemala is an insanely cheap destination and the people are so kind to tourists.

I'm not too crazy for Antigua, it's pretty and all, but every street looks the same with repetitive architecture so you can get lost very easily, lot's of car traffic, expensive restaurants that charge like 20 USD on average for each meal and the most expensive hotels in the country I only really like it as a good first stop once you get off the airplane in the airport because it's such a comfortable starting point to different sites all over the country. Pacaya volcano is an unbeatable experience and tourist company if you hire an official tour will be from the local village next to the volcano so a large portion of the money is going to average ordinary people.

You have to see Lake Atitlan, arguably known as one of the most beautiful lakes in the entire world with it's ever changing emerald green colors (sadly it's highly polluted), visit all of the 12 villages if you are daring, hear some interesting stories from real Maya. Each village has a different vibe and despite what many people say it being too americanized, I personally liked Panajachel. Chichicastenango is a short visit from Lake Atitlan or Antigua and there are some pyramids nearby. I've only been to Quirigua, Iximché and recently to Mixco Viejo, hope to see the big pyramids in Petén someday. I've also been to the villages in Cobán, Uruapan, Sacapulas, Cunén, Quiche, Esquipulas, Chiquimula, El Estor, Puerto Barrios and the oddly Jamaican esque Livingston. Seeing this beautiful country and the healthcare deficiencies might make for interesting discussion. I would love to visit several countries in South America someday, especially Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru and the Patagonia in Argentina.
 
  • Like
Reactions: LizzyM