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Working with vulnerable populations

dlydn1496

Full Member
Aug 12, 2019
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  1. Pre-Medical
What are some ways to get involved with vulnerable populations other than helping out at soup kitchens?

Would going on an annual month-long public health (not medical) service trip to Africa helping girls further their education (most African girls in rural villages only get an education up to an elementary level) and teaching them, as well as boys, sexual health be a worthwhile experiences? Is this something that goes under "helping vulnerable populations?" (This is something for next summer) I'm interested in public health and I thought this opportunity would give me a different, more first-hand experience but I also understand that adcom frowns upon out-of-country activities...
Thank you!
 
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D

deleted1005514

Homeless shelters will usually have some sort of resource coordinator whose job it is to get people signed up for programs they qualify for...food stamps, health insurance, etc. There is often a program where a doctor comes in every so often and gives free medical care too, you could call around and ask about that.

Also, look into volunteering at women's shelters and/or crisis pregnancy centers. With the current Covid 19 crisis, international travel isn't as easy as it was just a few months ago, and in the meantime, there is probably a population of people closer to home that need help right now.
 
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dlydn1496

Full Member
Aug 12, 2019
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  1. Pre-Medical
Homeless shelters will usually have some sort of resource coordinator whose job it is to get people signed up for programs they qualify for...food stamps, health insurance, etc. There is often a program where a doctor comes in every so often and gives free medical care too, you could call around and ask about that.

Also, look into volunteering at women's shelters and/or crisis pregnancy centers. With the current Covid 19 crisis, international travel isn't as easy as it was just a few months ago, and in the meantime, there is probably a population of people closer to home that need help right now.

Thank you for the insight!
This summer I'm planning to do some remote volunteer work and, if stay-at-home orders are lifted, help out at hospice and dementia centers.
The Africa trip is something I would like to do next summer but I wanted some second opinions before applying in case I should do something more worthwhile. I've seen many WAMC posts in which commenters said they lack experience working with vulnerable populations and I don't want to be in that pool too.
 
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deleted1005514

Thank you for the insight!
This summer I'm planning to do some remote volunteer work and, if stay-at-home orders are lifted, help out at hospice and dementia centers.
The Africa trip is something I would like to do next summer but I wanted some second opinions before applying in case I should do something more worthwhile. I've seen many WAMC posts in which commenters said they lack experience working with vulnerable populations and I don't want to be in that pool too.

I personally worked with hospice patients and homeless shelters, and found the expriences very valuable. I also did my shadowing at a hospital that served underserved/indigent populations.
 
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Jun 11, 2010
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Somewhere west of St. Louis
  1. Non-Student
What are some ways to get involved with vulnerable populations other than helping out at soup kitchens?
Would going on an annual month-long public health service trip to Africa helping girls further their education (most African girls in rural villages only get an education up to an elementary level) and teaching them, as well as boys, sexual health be a worthwhile experiences? Is this something that goes under "helping vulnerable populations?" (This is something for next summer) I'm interested in public health and I thought this opportunity would give me a different, more first-hand experience but I also understand that adcom frowns upon out-of-country activities...
Thank you!
Talk to your local houses of worship
TFA
Americorps
Food pantries
Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House, Humane Society, crisis hotlines, soup kitchen, food pantry, homeless or women’s shelter, after-school tutoring for students or coaching a sport in a poor school district, teaching literacy or ESL to adults at a community center, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Meals on Wheels, mentoring immigrant/refugee adults, being a friendly visitor to shut-ins, adaptive sports program coach or Special Olympics.
 
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dlydn1496

Full Member
Aug 12, 2019
32
10
36
  1. Pre-Medical
Talk to your local houses of worship
TFA
Americorps
Food pantries
Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House, Humane Society, crisis hotlines, soup kitchen, food pantry, homeless or women’s shelter, after-school tutoring for students or coaching a sport in a poor school district, teaching literacy or ESL to adults at a community center, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Meals on Wheels, mentoring immigrant/refugee adults, being a friendly visitor to shut-ins, adaptive sports program coach or Special Olympics.

I'll definitely look into those organizations, thank you!
What do you think about the public health service trip to Africa that I discussed in my original post? I feel like I can learn a lot from it but not sure what adcom would think about international endeavors.
 

cj_cregg

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Jul 25, 2014
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I'll definitely look into those organizations, thank you!
What do you think about the public health service trip to Africa that I discussed in my original post? I feel like I can learn a lot from it but not sure what adcom would think about international endeavors.
Questions you should be asking yourself about this trip before you decide to go:
Is the mission statement of the organization aimed at helping the volunteers, or helping the people you'll be working with?
Does the organization have a consistent presence in the area? Is the work they do sustainable, or working towards sustainability? Do they have a good relationship with locals (hiring local workers in a variety of roles including leadership, for instance)?
Will you be familiar with the culture and language of the people you are working with, particularly related to cultural views of sex and sexuality?
Do you have the qualifications to do a similar job in the US?
Could the job you're doing be done by a local (in other words, is your presence denying a qualified local a job)?

I obviously don't know much about the experience you're thinking about participating in, but imo thinking about these types of questions are the foundation of any ethical and educational global health experience. These are the things adcoms will want you to be able to discuss knowledgeably in an essay or interview - their perception of it will depend on your description of it.
 
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gonnif

Rule One: Take a Breath
10+ Year Member
Jul 26, 2009
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The Big Bad Apple
  1. Non-Student
What are some ways to get involved with vulnerable populations other than helping out at soup kitchens?

Would going on an annual month-long public health (not medical) service trip to Africa helping girls further their education (most African girls in rural villages only get an education up to an elementary level) and teaching them, as well as boys, sexual health be a worthwhile experiences? Is this something that goes under "helping vulnerable populations?" (This is something for next summer) I'm interested in public health and I thought this opportunity would give me a different, more first-hand experience but I also understand that adcom frowns upon out-of-country activities...
Thank you!

What the AAMC say about international work

https://www.aamc.org/system/files/c...al-shadowing-experience-executive-summary.pdf
In the spring of 2016, the GSA Committee on Admissions of the AAMC distributed a survey to the designated medical school admissions contacts at each AAMC member medical school. The goal of the survey was to gather information on current medical school admissions practices related to requirements for clinical experiences for medical school applicants. The Committee on Admissions understands that such activities are increasingly difficult to obtain in the United States. Some medical school applicants may be pursuing such clinical experiences in foreign countries. A wide variety of international programs exist, and concerns have been raised about the level of supervision of students in some of these programs. ...

Member schools expressed significant concern with regards to premedical students engaging in unsupervised clinical activities in international settings. In particular, 45-50% of those schools completing the survey described applicant involvement in invasive procedures in international settings as either harmful to, or of no value to, their application. Examples of such invasive procedures include giving vaccinations, suturing an injury, pulling teeth, and delivering a baby. This concern of admissions officers persisted, albeit at lower levels (35-40% of respondents), when the students were supervised by a health professional while performing such invasive procedures in international settings.
 
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dlydn1496

Full Member
Aug 12, 2019
32
10
36
  1. Pre-Medical
What the AAMC say about international work

https://www.aamc.org/system/files/c...al-shadowing-experience-executive-summary.pdf
In the spring of 2016, the GSA Committee on Admissions of the AAMC distributed a survey to the designated medical school admissions contacts at each AAMC member medical school. The goal of the survey was to gather information on current medical school admissions practices related to requirements for clinical experiences for medical school applicants. The Committee on Admissions understands that such activities are increasingly difficult to obtain in the United States. Some medical school applicants may be pursuing such clinical experiences in foreign countries. A wide variety of international programs exist, and concerns have been raised about the level of supervision of students in some of these programs. ...

Member schools expressed significant concern with regards to premedical students engaging in unsupervised clinical activities in international settings. In particular, 45-50% of those schools completing the survey described applicant involvement in invasive procedures in international settings as either harmful to, or of no value to, their application. Examples of such invasive procedures include giving vaccinations, suturing an injury, pulling teeth, and delivering a baby. This concern of admissions officers persisted, albeit at lower levels (35-40% of respondents), when the students were supervised by a health professional while performing such invasive procedures in international settings.


Questions you should be asking yourself about this trip before you decide to go:
Is the mission statement of the organization aimed at helping the volunteers, or helping the people you'll be working with?
Does the organization have a consistent presence in the area? Is the work they do sustainable, or working towards sustainability? Do they have a good relationship with locals (hiring local workers in a variety of roles including leadership, for instance)?
Will you be familiar with the culture and language of the people you are working with, particularly related to cultural views of sex and sexuality?
Do you have the qualifications to do a similar job in the US?
Could the job you're doing be done by a local (in other words, is your presence denying a qualified local a job)?

I obviously don't know much about the experience you're thinking about participating in, but imo thinking about these types of questions are the foundation of any ethical and educational global health experience. These are the things adcoms will want you to be able to discuss knowledgeably in an essay or interview - their perception of it will depend on your description of it.

@cj_cregg I'll definitely go through those questions-- thank you. Here are some details about the trip that might be important to consider:

1. It's supervised by my school's adjunct-lecturer/physician who has been in partnership with the village's school for more than ten years; the work that we're performing is not clinical at all
2. We'll be learning about the culture of the village instead of imposing our own so the service we are providing caters to that specific community. In order to ensure that, we will be taking a 3-credit semester long course/training regarding how we can make the trip ethical and sustainable; we'll also be doing video calls with the instructor at the school in Africa and learn about the culture/language/history.

Given these circumstances, would AAMC's take on international work still apply to this trip?
Thank you so much!
 
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cj_cregg

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Jul 25, 2014
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@cj_cregg I'll definitely go through those questions-- thank you. Here are some details about the trip that might be important to consider:

1. It's supervised by my school's adjunct-lecturer/physician who has been in partnership with the village's school for more than ten years; the work that we're performing is not clinical at all
2. We'll be learning about the culture of the village instead of imposing our own so the service we are providing caters to that specific community. In order to ensure that, we will be taking a 3-credit semester long course/training regarding how we can make the trip ethical and sustainable; we'll also be doing video calls with the instructor at the school in Africa and learn about the culture/language/history.

Given these circumstances, would AAMC's take on international work still apply to this trip?
Thank you so much!
Tough to say anything definitive when my knowledge of the organization is based on one person's perspective as described in a few random internet paragraphs lol, but what you've described above sounds like the groundwork for an organization trying to do things the right way.

I would also note that the AAMC's statement as quoted above applies specifically to students doing activities that are outside the scope of their training/education (or lack thereof).

Finally, make sure you do get some longitudinal experience with underserved populations in your own backyard as well. Lots of great suggestions above. If you're interested in education and sexual health/preventive counseling, you might look into Boys Club/Girls Club or other mentoring organizations, tutoring in an under-resourced school, or getting involved with a local free clinic or public health department that does STD/HIV testing.
 

dlydn1496

Full Member
Aug 12, 2019
32
10
36
  1. Pre-Medical
Tough to say anything definitive when my knowledge of the organization is based on one person's perspective as described in a few random internet paragraphs lol, but what you've described above sounds like the groundwork for an organization trying to do things the right way.

I would also note that the AAMC's statement as quoted above applies specifically to students doing activities that are outside the scope of their training/education (or lack thereof).

Finally, make sure you do get some longitudinal experience with underserved populations in your own backyard as well. Lots of great suggestions above. If you're interested in education and sexual health/preventive counseling, you might look into Boys Club/Girls Club or other mentoring organizations, tutoring in an under-resourced school, or getting involved with a local free clinic or public health department that does STD/HIV testing.

Thank you for your advice!
 

StudentDoGter

MS1
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Sep 17, 2014
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I think your proposed activity can be a great experience, but it should not be your biggest or longest demonstration of service to vulnerable populations on your application. Be sure to also get a decent amount of volunteer experience to vulnerable populations in your local community :)
 
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