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Medical Mission Trips

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by scrubsaresexy, Dec 18, 2008.

  1. scrubsaresexy

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    Hi everyone!

    I was wondering if anyone has had any experience with summer medical mission trips. I'm a Firefighter/EMT-B/IV-Technician and I'd really like to find something meaningful to do this summer. A friend of mine just came back from a semester studying abroad in Africa, and it seems to really have put things in perspective for him. I'd kind of like to have a similar experience, but I don't have time in my schedule to study abroad (he's a sociology major, so his major kind of lends itself to studying in Africa). With my medical training, does anyone know of any programs that would help me do a little, even if it's just vital signs or public health? I don't have much money to spend and I know these trips are often expensive. I also was hoping to find a program that isn't also a Christian mission because I'm just not really into that kind thing.

    Any help or advice would be appreciated :)
     
  2. talkalot24

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  3. fish89

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    Missions trips are cool.
     
    #3 fish89, Dec 20, 2008
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2008
  4. atl27

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    I've never understood the point of these trips, other than having something else to list on your application of course. It seems to me it would be better just to donate the money spent on the trip to some charity, rather than having another pre-med kid go all the way to africa to hand out bandaids.
     
  5. gujuDoc

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    I agree with this. Unless you are planning on doing something on going year after year while also doing stuff here it seems pointless and like people just want to pretend like they saved the world.

    At least in the OPs case its good to know they have real training in something technical so they have skills to do things with or without these trips. So if they went they'd at least be more useful then a typical premed doing these trips.

    But that said you could also do similar work in underpoverished areas here as well if you have a chance. That's what I think more premeds need to do.

    That said, if you are still going to go, then there are several organizations.

    www.UniteForSite.org
    www.Projects-abroad.org
    CHFI
    There are a few others that I can't remember right now. Look up the GWU medical school website. They started a few of the current popular organizations which people use to do such projects.
     
  6. Dissected

    Dissected All bleeding stops eventually
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    some are more reasonable than others..just depends on the trip. I've had good experiences and helped a lot of people, buuuut I've also basically gone and handed out band-aids as well. Volunteering your energy for an established organization is usually best when you are a pre-med with nothing but a biochem and physiology class under your belt like me :shrug:. The best experience I've had is volunteering for hospice type care (Mother Teresa's specifically). No medical expertise needed, but a lot of good quality care can be managed :thumbup:
     
  7. 229141

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    Yeah- this is sadly true
     
  8. Tekbright510

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    I think you guys are being quite harsh with your views on overseas volunteering. I spent a summer abroad as a medical volunteer and my desire to do this stemmed from more than just being able to volunteer.

    Yes, it was not cheap but if you find a good program, it turns out to be a fulfilling experience. Personally, I like to travel, meet people who lead very different lives than I do, and immerse myself in new cultures. I got to do all this while learning about healthcare and working in a variety of hospitals. There were far fewer liability concerns so I was able to observe more in the hospital settings than I would have been able to here in the US.

    In the two months I spent abroad, I gained a grasp of the vernacular language and made some very good friends. I will be the first one to admit that my volunteer "duties" were pretty simple but what made my experience special went beyond just them.
     
  9. Jtrenier

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    DoktorB, were you at Mother Theresa's hospics site in Calcutta? Can you give some more details about this?
     
  10. Jtrenier

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    What program did you do?
     
  11. Tekbright510

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    ...
     
    #11 Tekbright510, Dec 21, 2008
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2009
  12. Dissected

    Dissected All bleeding stops eventually
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    yep I went to Kolkata. It was intense, that city is a mess, Ive never seen anything like it. Walking at night is difficult because there are so many homeless sleeping on the sidewalks. Its a great opportunity for anyone who wants to volunteer their time and help people out. I worked at the home for the destitute and dying, Mother Teresa's original home and the place she invested most of her time. A lot of the people there were close to death and they normally get picked up straight from the streets. feeding/bathing/spending time with them was hard work, but you know it means a lot. Giving patients the ability to pass with dignity is very rewarding, but also difficult emotionally. We lost a few while I was there. Some do get better and are released which is a miracle a in most cases. I also worked at wound clinics sponsored by their ministry...the wounds I dressed there were crazy and DIRTY! Huge lacerations/infections and a lot of them were maggot filled..I had to pick waay too many of those suckers out :hungover:. My friends who were with me worked at Prem Dan which is more like a hospital/rehabilitation center for patients who are going to get better and eventually released. The great thing is that you can do as much or as little as you want to because nobody is going to stop you/force you to do anything. If you know how to dress wounds or want to learn there is a place for you. They can always use help, and there are nurses there who can teach you. It took a lot out of me, but it was a great experience and I know that I was able to really help people. They will embrace you as a volunteer, so if you want some good patient care experience I would recommend it! (especially if you go outside of summer, they get a flood in June-August when people are off of school). If you want to know more PM me :)
     
  13. justdoit31

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    Just to remind people there are a lot of things you can do abroad that are not medically related and ADCOM's like those too- I have done some free clinics here in the states and am considering going on a trip this summer (most likely won't but I am a part of a group that is sending a group)...

    But abroad I have worked extensively with youth in schools, churches, and orphanages. None of that work was medical but very rewarding. Consider doing something like this or just traveling for culture/educational reasons- I was asked a lot about all my international experiences during interviews.

    If I was going on the trip this summer they said I would be doing triage work- bp, temps, glucose, etc... there is a lot more you can do abroad than in the US as a medical volunteer. I also spent some time working with the physicians and even taking history and dispensing OTC meds (I could look up prescription meds but obviously not write them)
     
  14. scrubsaresexy

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    Thanks for all the responses :)

    I'm definitely going to look into helping out in impoverished areas here, too, especially because my parents are particularly keen on me travelling to developing areas of the world. I love travelling and think I would get a lot out of volunteering in a developing country (my college sponsers a study abroad trip in Africa and it's put things into perspective for many of my friends), but logistically, it's going to be hard to do.

    Plus...a bunch of people at my school who studied abroad in Africa for the fall picked up some really yucky parasites. I think I'll pass on that particular life experience...
     
  15. brianjg

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    Check out Experiential Learning International (www.eliabroad.org). I went to Kenya for a month last year. Vayama is a good place to get international airfare for pretty cheap. Good Luck!
     
  16. StPlayrXtreme

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    I'm actually leaving for a health education service trip in Panama next week for a program in nutrition and HIV prevention.I also went to Kolkata last year. In my experience, international service projects are very rewarding and a good opportunity for community service and to learn about another culture while you're at it.

    I was part of a group that worked for a semester putting together a health education program. When we go to Panama, the peace corps will tell us where to go and we will deliver the program there, and help the peace corps for the rest of the day. Last year was a similar program in India through the West Bengal Institute of Social Work.

    That said, I would recommend a health education project as opposed to a traditional "medical mission." In my opinion, as an undergraduate I don't have the skills yet to help in a medical mission, but I am certainly capable of running an education program. While I don't yet have the skills to care for the sick, I feel I can make a difference by spreading information to help people stay healthy.

    I would recommend an international project only if you're willing to devote some time to it.I've read about some programs that seem more like adventure vacations. But there are a lot of good programs out there, just be sure to read up on everything...everything I've done has been through a global health student group at my university, so definitely check and see what resources exist at your school.
     
  17. Jtrenier

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    There is no reason why you should worry about getting a parasite as long as you use common sense (boil/treat water, don't walk around barefoot in puddles, etc). I worked for four months in Rwanda during grad school, and many of my friends from grad school have worked/traveled to different parts of Africa for extended periods of time. I don't recall any of them having issues with parasites. I think that more than likely you will be fine. Just like anywhere in the world, be careful what you eat/drink and cover your feet w/ shoes while walking outside.
     
  18. Dissected

    Dissected All bleeding stops eventually
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    wise words


    If anyone is interested in volunteering at mother teresa's, this is a pretty good description of how to go about doing it. It is EXTREMELY informal. You can show up out of the blue at the mother house for one of the info sessions and start volunteering later that week.
    http://www.lonelyplanet.com/travelstories/article/volunteeringinkolkata_1207/interest/volunteer
     
    #18 Dissected, Dec 21, 2008
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2008
  19. Jtrenier

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    I somewhat agree with this. Right now I am debating about what to do this summer: medical missions or a public health program. I have an MPH in global epidemiology and have worked abroad before in Rwanda at an HIV testing center. For my current job I work on a health policy project in Thailand and travel there from time to time. For me, I am interested in doing something more clinically focused instead of something entirely public health focused like my prior experiences. However, I know that I could bring more skills to a public health program instead. Plus, I could easily find a public health position through my grad school and former professors. However, I'm still leaning towards medical missions because I would like to get more exposure to hospital and clinical settings in a foreign country. Still unsure. :confused:
     
  20. Go Ducks

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    I am spending a year in a remote area of Africa where I basically created my own program. They are so low on doctors that the first day I was assisting with surgery. Now I'm usually the only person at the table besides the doctor. I do minor proceedures solo, deliver babies, and help bring docs from overseas to help. Pre-med students can make a huge difference if they're willing to really go out on the line. However, I'm also careful not to take on more than I can handle. (I refuse to do c-sections myself, though they want me to, etc.) Before you blast me, if I wasn't there, the doctor would be doing the surgeries with no assistance... and an extra set of hands certainly helps.

    By the way, if there are any doctors who can give time, we'd love to see you in Sumbawanga!
     
  21. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers
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    Unless houses stop buring down and people stop having chest pain in your little corner of the world, how is going somewhere else to do something somewhat helpful a plus on your application or a benefit to society? It costs money to travel, the carbon footprint involved in a short-term trip is enormous, and you don't really need the clinical exposure/experience over what you already have. Go away and broaden your horizens but don't buy into the notion that you have to do a "medical mission trip", particularly if you are not motivated by a religious impulse (the mission in medical mission trip).

    I think it would be far better to do language immersion, backpack someplace interesting, camp in the back country (if that floats your boat), visit big cities here or abroad and soak up some culture (classical music, art, food), even do a roadtrip to visit all the National League baseball parks or something like that.

    If you need to have something "altruistic", a short medical mission is a little too short. Better to get involved with something "back home" whether it is tutoring little kids, illiterate adults, working with the elderly or mentally ill or with scouting.
     
  22. Valvool

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    Once you are in medschool, there will be mission trips planned by various student organizations for every break (winter break, spring break, over the summer), and you will have several trips to choose from. (Do I want go to Costa Rica or Romania this spring?) The opportunity will be there, the question will be do you want to spend the money.
     
  23. Jtrenier

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    LizzyM, I know you're an adcom, but personally, I have to respectfully disagree. Most people I know who go abroad don't do it just to put something on their applications that Adcoms might like. However, I will say that my experiences in Rwanda have come up in every interview I've had. I also wrote my personal statement about my time in Rwanda b/c it greatly impacted my view on medicine and community service.. Yes, the $3000 used to travel abroad to "help" people can be far better used by donating it to charity instead. However, that is not the point. I know plenty of people who have done a week or two volunteering abroad and it greatly impacted their lives. I also know people who have done Peace Corps and said it was more of a "cultural exchange" than really helping or changing a community. To make real change it takes years and years of engaging a community into taking ownership of the change, and as a foreigner it is often difficult to get past the cultural barriers and be successful at this. Even WHO, CARE and CDC all have challenges with this (and I have worked w/ each of these organizations on international projects).

    Personally I would like to do a missions trips or volunteer work because I would feel uncomfortable if I went to a developing country and stayed in cushy hotels w/ running water and top notch service, and only visited touristy places. Part of a cultural exchange is seeing how the locals live and immersing yourself into their lives, whether it's for two weeks or two years. Seeing their lifestyles will help you have a better appreciation for their culture and a better perspective on your own.

    If someone wants to volunteer abroad, then I say go for it. It is an eye-opening experience that may change your perspective on life, which is far more than you'll ever get from the usual touristy things.
     
    njtrimed likes this.
  24. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers
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    You've got a strawman argument. It is possible to visit a developing country and see how the locals live without staying in a cushy hotel or doing only "touristy things".

    The OP wanted to do something "meaningful". I don't understand what "meaning" he's trying to find that isn't present in EMT/firefighter work. If he gets a vacation from his job, might it not be wise to find something that refreshes him (recreation renews our spirits that's why we call it "re-creation").

    I don't doubt that every interviewer asks you about the topic of your AMCAS essay. That is pretty typical. It is also pretty typical to ask about a trip abroad because it is usually "interesting" (a good story and sometimes informative) and a little less intrusive than, "tell me about your experience at your grandmother's deathbed".
     
  25. Jtrenier

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    Where is the fallacy? Perhaps you misread my statement. I said the exact same thing as above. The best way to experience how locals live is by living with a host family or staying in a common neighborhood or going to the neighborhood market (immersion into daily life), not at a fancy hotel or by eatting at "mzungu" (foreigner) restaurants as they called it in Rwanda.

    Judging from his post, the OP wants to go to Africa (or another region of the world) like his friend in sociology did; however, he also would like to use his EMT skills. Many developing countries are always in need of trained medical staff. So his work would be useful, rewarding, and meaningful. The OP also wants to experience the same change in perspective that his friend did. Volunteering in a foreign country can do this. LizzyM, I don't know if you ever did a trip like this abroad, but personally speaking, the most dramatic, meaningful and life changing experiences in my life have been working/volunteering/studying abroad. Travelling to visit touristy places has also helped me a little bit in this matter, but it definitely does not have the same impact or life changing experience as immersion and participation (work/volunteer) in a foreign community. Unless you have lived or traveled abroad in this manner, then it is hard to understand.

    Volunteering does the same for many people. I've had some of the biggest highs in my life by helping other people. Doing a spring break trip with Habitat for Humanity was way more refreshing to me than other "typical" spring breaks I took while in college. Not to mention, volunteering with those who are more disadvantaged puts into perspective how insignificant my daily stresses/problems are.

    My exact point. It gives you something to talk about during your interviews, although this is not the main reason for choosing to go abroad. Many of my interviewers have also asked me about my work in Thailand and my study abroad experience in Spain, experiences that are not written in my essay.
     
  26. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers
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    I lived in a developing country for a year. I lived with host families and I traveled, often by bus with chickens (in shoppoing bags) in the aisle. I lived like a middle income traveler in that country would live (bathroom down the hall, no hot running water, etc). With a clergyman who had lived in the region for years, I visited a family in a very rural area who lived in a single room of about 125 square feet (they flagged us down and asked us to come and see their new baby).

    A spring break that involves back-breaking labor is a "re-creation" after sitting in a classroom or lab for months (particularly if it involves going to a place that is warmer than your campus). For someone whose daily work is back-breaking, I'm not sure that volunteering for more of the same is as reinvigorating.

    Maybe the OP will find a short-term service project that isn't too expensive and that can leverage his current skills but I want him to know that it isn't the only way (and may not be the best way) to spend a vacation.
     
  27. cyclin M

    cyclin M megaman
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    Just my 2 cents. I never understood the point of these missions. There is plenty to do in the USA (or Canada/etc) to help out your community. Perhaps someone can enlighten me?
     
  28. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers
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    Everyone wants to be a combination of Mother Teresa and Paul Farmer.
     
  29. Jtrenier

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    I actually miss the chickens on the buses. I was on a bus one time where a guy attached a bunch of fish to the windshield wipers (that was a first).

    Well, you definitely know what I'm talking about then!!! :p
    Lizzy which country did you go to?

    Agreed. From the OP's post it seems like he wants to do something related to his work in another country that would be more meaningful than his current work (rather than a "relaxing" vacation). My co-worker decided to volunteer in Africa b/n work and med school just to get more international experience.

    OP, if this is the case and you're short on money, then you may want to look into hospitals/clinics and volunteer positions in the Caribbean or Mexico. Flights to these areas are rather inexpensive in comparison to Africa. The Dominican Republic would be on the cheaper side. You can also see if anyone has frequent flyer miles or skymiles to donate to you.

    Also, you can do both work and relaxing stuff in one trip. ex) spend one month volunteering, two weeks doing tourist stuff- you get both the experience abroad and the relaxing part at the same time.

    You may also want to look into volunteering on indian reservations. Some reservations are in dire need of medical personnel. Your skills would definitely be useful. Unfortunately there are still many reservations with widespread poverty (it's like being in a third world country). You can check out the Navajo reservation, where you could work and then vacation (hike, see nature, etc).
     
  30. Jtrenier

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    I agree. I can't speak for everyone, but I can tell you why I am interested in these international trips. First, I love to travel and see new places. One of the ways I've been able to travel and live abroad is through school and work. (I work on international health policy projects and epi studies) In terms of volunteering abroad, it's something I like to do when I travel for fun. I could just go and relax on a beach or go visit temples, etc, but I also like to volunteer during my trips as well (about 1/2 work, 1/2 play). In some countries, they do not have welfare, medicaid, and programs for the poor like we do in the U.S. You can be poor in the U.S. and still own a TV or a car. The type of poverty seen in other countries is way more devistating, and the opportunities to pull yourself out of poverty are far fewer than here in the U.S. Therefore, it is hard for me in good conscience to just "travel the world" and have fun without volunteering at some point along the way. Even just having the opportunity to listen to the stories of people with totally different life experiences is in itself rewarding. For me it's not just about "helping other people," it's also largely about the cultural exchange and reaching beyond my comfort zone.

    I think the reason why these trips appeal to many people is because the U.S. is such a privileged country, and we tend to live in a bubble of ipods, celebrities, shopping malls, and HDTV. Even when you volunteer here in the U.S., you return to your comfy home with heat, water, electricity, and TV. Going to another country can zap you out of this comfort zone, and show you how other people live with much less.

    Volunteering abroad is just as much about the cultural exchange and the impact it makes on the volunteer, as it is about the positive impact you are trying to make on the community you serve.

    Nothing wrong with aspiring to be great or looking up to these two great individuals. However, it is naive when people think they can "save the world." Only God can do that.
     
  31. scrubsaresexy

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    For what its worth...
    I'm a girl, not a guy :p

    Also, I'm 100% volunteer and don't get paid for the time I spend doing fire/EMS, so I'm a full time college student. To me, being a vollie isn't a job, it's something I do for fun and enjoyment and to sort of have a purpose, so going abroad would sort of be like taking a break. While I think it would be very rewarding to go on a medical mission trip, it's not financially possible for me right now. When everyone talks about volunteering in places in the US that have need, I already do! I volunteer with a rescue squad where I go to school that is very rural and in desperate need of help most of the time. And it's awesome :thumbup: I might look into going somewhere else in the US for a few weeks because that would probably be just as meaningful (if not more).

    But seriously, thanks for all the advice! I think this turned into a really interesting discussion.
     
  32. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers
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    I'd like to see more applicants who have lived and worked/volunteered among the poor in the US. This would mean living in crowded housing in poor neighborhoods (share a bedroom, share a bathroom) and spending no more on groceries than people on food stamps do (<$200/mo). There are many people who live with far less than the average college student (and many of you are above average!)

    It is possible to get out of your comfort zone without a passport.

    There are some service programs that do this for a year or more (Americorps as well as a Jesuit program I've heard of)... does anyone know of any that are avaiable for a summer?
     
  33. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers
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    Sorry for the confusion, OP. Your opening was I am a firefighter/EMT-B etc so I thought that you were a non-trad with a f/t job.
     
  34. dally1025

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    I volunteered abroad in Ecuador, Argentina, and Mexico from periods ranging from 1 week to 3 months in medical clinics and a school. I've also traveled to a number of other countries as a mere tourist (mostly in developing nations). First off, traveling is an incredible experience and I highly recommend it! Working and volunteering abroad was one of the most profound experiences I've ever had but not in the way most people expect. Yes, I came back with a better appreciation of my life and my opportunities but I began to realize that LizzyM is correct! If you want to make an impact somewhere you need to be there long term. One one of my trips we brought over $50,000 worth of medical supplies and equipment to a border-town in Mexico. I felt incredible when the nurse and doctor started crying as they saw the 18 boxes full of new supplies. Later that evening the man in charge of the mission spoke to our group about the program (it was an alternative spring break and we went to build houses and help in the clinic). He told us straight up "Don't think you're going to come in on a white horse and save us." At first I was shocked that he would say such a thing after we brought all that stuff but after some time I realized he's right. We would be leaving soon and they're back where they started. We helped for a little bit but we didn't do anything to change the system. The medicine would eventually run out and the families would still be living in extreme poverty only they had a concrete house instead of a tin house.

    At this point in time we may have a little medical experience under our belts but we have experience in “developed world” medicine and not “developing world” medicine. Medicine in a developing country is a completely different branch of medicine. It’s not based on lab results or MRIs but on doctor’s intuition. Because you will require training you're more than likely a burden (especially if you don’t speak the language and you’re only staying for a week or two). These programs are incredible learning experiences but realize that they’re for your benefit and not so much the native people. They will help you WAY more than you could ever help them. By all means travel abroad if you've got the time and money but be realistic about your abilities and your impact! If you really want to make a difference through volunteering you generally need to stay long term unless you have some sort of specialized skills the country cannot provide (ie the surgeons that perform cleft lip surgeries). If you're going abroad to meet people of a different culture you can easily accomplish this whilst traveling (especially if you stay with a host family). I actually did more of this in my off time than volunteering~cab drivers, tour guides, people on the street, etc.
     
  35. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers
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    I remember a sermon I heard from a missionary from a Carribean island. Along with "pray for us" and "donate money to help us do our work" he said, "Come visit our island. Tourism is our major industry and our people depend on people like you for their livelihoods."

    You can give a man a fish, or you can pay him to: catch a fish, cook it for you and clean up after you've eaten it.
     
  36. dally1025

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    I'm a huge proponent of cultural tourism. Not only does the tourist leave with a broader worldview and some incredible experiences but the native people benefit! It allows the local to better themselves to attract tourists~benefiting both tourists and natives. I've stayed with a small indigenous family in the middle of the jungle, joined in a parade in Bolivia, and met with a shaman (who told me to come by and study with him after I start school. It would be incredibly interesting but I'm not sure how to schedule it as he lives in the middle of he jungle-6 hours by jeep and 4 by canoe). One of my jungle guides was saving up to buy some land for preservation and we were happy to help his cause.

    One word of advice: please do NOT pay an American company to do volunteer work! If you want to volunteer abroad go through a local organization. It's cheaper and the money stays in the community instead of "administration costs." If you need lists of some I know quite a few in S America.
     
  37. tabletop

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    I don't agree that these kinds of trips are useless to go on. For one, whoever said that people who go on these trips are doing it solely for the purposes of "helping people"? Of course, I'm sure that's part of the motivation, but really I think it's mainly for the benefit of the pre-meds going on these trips. It gives a new perspective of what other countries' health care systems are like and how the US differs from other parts of the world in that sense. We've all seen what it's like to live in a country with ample access to healthcare, but it's also important to see what happens in communities where healthcare is not available.

    Secondly, there do exist some medical relief trips that you can go on, which allow you to actually do something, rather than handing out bandaids. For example, I went on such a trip to Honduras with Global Medical Brigades. It wasn't just a bunch of pre-meds going and trying to administer medical help, but we took along doctors, as well as got a large donation of medical equipment and medicines, so it wasn't a futile effort at all, as some of you have suggested these trips to be. Yes, we did hand out the medicines, but we were also able to take medical histories and vitals of the patients, as well as aided the doctors in translating. In addition, GMB chooses its locations in Honduras such that the brigades go to villages where healthcare is severely lacking. For example, the villages we went to were hours away from the nearest hospital, and since the residents of these villages did not have very good means of transportation, they only receive medical attention from the medical relief trips that come through their villages once a year. So yes, I do feel like that trip made an impact on the people of the villages (I know for a fact that we saved at least one life), but more than anything it made an impact on me. I don't think I could've gotten the same experience in the US, and it was well worth the $1500 I paid.
     
  38. darkosbunny

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    I can think of a few meaningful reasons:

    1. Good life experience, not everyone can or will travel to Africa or the Philippines, or any other 3rd world country.

    2. Fun. Why not do something like this when you're young?

    3. It could spark a desire to actually work in a setting like this once you get your medical license.

    4. You get to help less fortunate people.
     
  39. darkosbunny

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    :laugh::laugh::laugh:
     
  40. slowbutsteady

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    because sometimes it is useful and fulfilling to do something for another person other than writing a check.
     
  41. Jolie South

    Jolie South is invoking Domo. . .
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    yea, but why not just stay in the US and do it?

    not speaking the language, not understanding the culture, and being pre-med doesn't leave you with much chance to do much of anything useful. you could do much more during a 1 or 2 week vacation in the US where you at least speak the language.

    if you want to travel and see another country, do that. there's no shame in it. you're allowed a vacation.
     
  42. slowbutsteady

    slowbutsteady slowbutsteady
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    where and for whom a person chooses to give of themselves is very personal. it is not your place to judge. you do your thing and let others to theirs. all generosity is a good thing.

    why be critical?
     
  43. Jolie South

    Jolie South is invoking Domo. . .
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    i'm not being judgmental, but speaking from personal experience. i served for 2 years in the Peace Corps in a French speaking country. i also had 3 months of intensive language training and a degree in public health before i went. i think it is a great experience if you can take time to do it.

    however, if you're going to donate such a short period of time, i'd think you'd want to get the most bang for your buck so to speak and work where you can really be effective.
     
    #43 Jolie South, Jan 2, 2009
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2009
  44. boboca

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    This is an excellent speech given by Ivan Illich to a group of young Americans who wanted to go and volunteer in Mexico. Although it's a bit outdated, it encompasses what a lot of people have been saying on this thread. It makes you think. http://www.swaraj.org/illich_hell.htm

    That said, I volunteered/lived in Southeast Asia for two years and it was the best decision I've made. All at once it was amazing, challenging, thought provoking, frustrating, fulfilling, and many many other adj. I went because I love traveling, experiencing new cultures, learning languages, and basically being thrown out of my element. I've lived in many different areas of the U.S. and in Australia and I decided that I wanted something completely different. And I got it. I went after my graduating from college and it helped me refocus why I wanted to be in medicine and what exactly I wanted to accomplish with an M.D. degree. If you're interested... http://www.viaprograms.org (they have summer and long term programs. and generally more affordable than other international programs)

    Of course I think people should volunteer in their own neighborhoods. But, I also think that if you have an opportunity to go abroad then you should. Too many americans are sheltered from this increasingly global society. And as long as you're not an "ugly american" and you're respectful...you're showing people in countries that hate americans that American people are not necessarily the American gov't.
     
  45. slowbutsteady

    slowbutsteady slowbutsteady
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    Very well stated.
     
  46. Go Ducks

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    I guess I opened a large can of worms when I posted this morning. For those just joining the thread, I wrote about helping at hospitals in Africa (right now I'm in the US for the holidays). Speaking from experience (as many of us are), I'd like to add a few comments:

    I took this opportunity seriously. I studied Swahili for a year before traveling to Tanzania. I can now get by in most health-related conversations.

    I work independently and I'm not a drain on anyone's time. Regardless, many of the doctors truly enjoy teaching me.

    My goal is to become a surgeon. In the US, I wouldn't even be allowed in the OR. I volunteered at a hospital in the states and I ended up spending my time pushing wheel chairs, stocking pens, and begging the nurses for more tasks. In Tanzania, I probably get more experience than fourth-year med students. I also get experience that relates directly to surgery (namely, being the main assistant).

    Furthermore, I want to eventually open a clinic in Tanzania. If you want to judge me for opening a clinic in Tanzania instead of in the US, visit Tz first. It's sickening to watch people die because they couldn't afford to buy a five dollar nasogastric tube or couldn't afford a ride to the hospital when they're in labor. By working in Tanzania, I'm learning how the entire system here works, from how the medical system functions to how NGOs are registered. Believe me: it's very different from the US. I'm also making many contacts in the medical field and meeting others who are establishing clinics.

    In addition to helping at the hospital, I manage local logistics for foreign doctors who wish to volunteer their time in Tanzania. The last doctor who came told me that, were it not for me, he wouldn't have come. Traveling in rural, isolated areas in Africa for the first time can be intimidating! I know for a fact that several lives would have been lost if he hadn't been there to perform complicated surgeries with US equipment. Therefore, I feel that I've indirectly saved lives.

    You can make an impact in your corner of the world. It really depends on how and what impact you wish to make. I wanted to learn surgery while making my impact... which isn't something that I could do in the US.

    Do not listen to people who tell you that you can't make a meaningful impact on the world without having med school under your belt. Do not listen to people who tell you that you are obligated to look after your neighbors before helping those who live many miles away. If you are serious and dedicated, you can make a difference.

    By the way, if I remember correctly, Paul Farmer went on a "medical mission" of his own as a pre-med... which led directly to the creation of Partners in Health.
     
  47. Narmerguy

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    All generosity is a good thing, but smart generosity is much preferable to wasted generosity. I agree with many of the above that the majority of these trips are so that the premed can gain a warm fuzzy feeling that after 1 month (even less for many) being around the destitute they now understand something about the world and that they've even made an impact on society.

    Though I wouldn't dream of taking away the value of the experience that some of you no doubt have had, accept that this is not the norm. The majority of these trips are for resume padding or a happy feeling when someone goes to bed at night.

    But honestly, there's nothing wrong with that. Let's not pretend that's not the reason that so many premeds do volunteering in the US as well so why not do it internationally if it'll make them standout more? I know I may come off harshly but there's also nothing wrong with wanting to have a warm fuzzy feeling at night, we all deserve a chance to feel happy with ourselves. I'm just proposing a little reality check when we wake up in the morning about what we've actually accomplished.
     
  48. dally1025

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    I was not arguing that you need an abbreviation behind your name to make a difference but it helps impact the population more. Before I took my trip to Mexico I had decided to give up medicine and just join the PeaceCorps after graduation. However, while I was there I realized that I needed to bring a specialized skill in order to make a bigger difference in whatever community I ended up in. In my experience, the Peace Corps do wonderful things and are much appreciated by native populations but I figured they could get anyone to push a shovel around or take temperatures. What people needed was public health education and healthcare by someone that understands the local culture, both of which require a long term committment.

    My point was that to make a positive change of consequence you need to commit more than a few weeks of time (which is something you sound prepared to do). Paul Farmer committed himself to a place which is why he was able to make such an impact. I don't think it matters where you practice as long as you are attempting to better the lives of others (I fell in love with Latin America and would love to do something similar after I repay my loans). In many ways working in places with limited resources is more rewarding and the amount of impact you have on lives is greatly intensified. Instead of doing 20 well child check ups you're literally saving lives. I would never change or give up my experiences abroad and learned a lot from the experience. The doctors were incredibly interested in teaching me and grateful for our help but I feel I got way more from my experiences than I ever gave back. It gets really frustrating when I hear people returning from a week spent in [insert 3rd world country here] talking about how they changed the lives' of the native peoples. I just wish more people had a realistic of short term committments (and paying American organizations to organize your trips).
     
  49. Jtrenier

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    You took the words staright out of my mouth. :thumbup::thumbup::thumbup::thumbup::thumbup::thumbup::thumbup::thumbup::thumbup:

    Living abroad or volunteering abroad will serve up a multitude of emotions. It's both rewarding and frustrating. Many times I was so home sick but never wanted to return home. This mix of feelings of positive and negative experienced at the same time is something I have only experienced through living abroad.

    I also agree that way too many Americans are sheltered and clueless about the world. Everyone I talked to who studied abraod with me felt it should be a requirement in college because the experience is so rewarding. I lived in Spain right after 9/11 and the Iraq invasion when the American brand was going down the toilet. I had some of the most amazing cultural exchanges, and people were curious to engage in conversation with me and hear my views as well as share theirs. As an American abroad, you represent the U.S. whether you like it or not.

    Lastly, my experiences abroad have motivated me to work and volunteer internationally (now with my skills from my MPH) and once I am a doctor and more skilled. Also by sharing these experiences, I have been able to motivate some friends and family to become more involved w/ international charities and world issues.

    To those of you interested in going abroad, do your homework and be respectful to the culture and lifestyles of the people you are living or working with. If you do this then you will have one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
     
  50. Jtrenier

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    Agreed. I got accepted into Peace Corps before grad school but then decided to get my MPH first because it would give me more skills. Peace Corps is now trying to recruit more skilled baby boomers as they begin their retirement. That being said, I would still encourage undergrads who are interested in PC to go for it.

    I agree to a certain extent with your statment about some of these "save the world" premeds. I get annoyed when people have a superiority complex over the "natives." I've seen this a lot in Africa, where people treat the locals like helpless children. I also get annoyed with the people who just want to save little black babies in Africa, but totally ignore black children living in rough inner city neighborhoods who need help (guidance, mentors, and afterschool tutors). I don't mean to sound harsh by this either, but I do understand where Dally is coming from.

    Secondly change is dependant on community engagement and buy-in for that type of change. Just because a program is long-term or you are volunteering for multiple years, it doesn't mean that anything will substantially change. Change must come from within the community and this takes cross-cultural skills. However, I do believe that a person can make a difference in a few weeks. First off, being a Westerner in some countries is an autommatic status symbol. People w/ $$ (other Westerners) are more likely to listen to you than a local from a poor isolated village who is asking for resources (at least this was my experience in East Africa where discrimination still persisted). Therefore as a foreigner, if you have the right type of drive and connections, you can help allocate resources to an area previously ignored. The only issue here is monitoring and evaluating the effect of these resources in shaping the community, which is the part that does take time to analyze.

    However, despite all of this, I still believe that going abroad for a few weeks to volunteer is better than absolutely no exposure.
     

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