If you have a passion to serve others through health care and education, medical volunteering is one of the best ways to care for communities and individuals all over the world. Medical volunteer programs overseas eagerly accept enthusiastic applicants with a wide range of experience, so whether you are an aspiring doctor, a current student, or a healthcare professional, there is a placement waiting for you. Most international health and medicine programs focus on underserved or rural populations to remedy low resources and education, access to quality care, or overwhelmed clinics, which means your work will have an immediate impact on the communities you serve. Working side by side with local doctors and healthcare experts, you can assist ongoing efforts to improve quality of life and gain valuable hands-on medical training.
Summer is a great time to volunteer, and to help you get started on your search to find the perfect program, Go Overseas has selected eleven of the best medical volunteer programs for summer 2021. Though each program features different projects, requirements, and lengths, the opportunities in this list will help you find a great match for your interests and expertise.
How did we pick these programs?
In choosing the best programs to be included in this article, we took into account two main factors: the review scores of each program and the number of reviews that program had received.
For all programs on Go Overseas, we ask reviewers to rate six key variables that reflect the core components of any experience. These vary depending on the type of program, but include items such as Housing, Support, Fun, Value, Safety, and an Overall score. We average these scores in order to find a numerical representation of the typical experience, and we use this number to compare all of the many programs in a certain category.
From there, our goal is to choose those programs which are truly the best: they have more and better reviews than the average for similar programs and are verified by enough reviews for us to feel confident giving our stamp of approval. Lastly, we base these decisions on our own industry knowledge. We want to make sure we're recommending programs that are vetted both by you, the users, and us, the experts, so that we feel confident the programs included are the best of the best!
The programs listed below are not ranked in any particular order; instead, they reflect a breadth of excellent program options.
1. Volunteer in Costa Rica with Maximo Nivel
Maximo Nivel’s medical volunteering program in Costa Rica upholds their longstanding sterling reputation for safe, fun, and meaningful overseas experiences. While Costa Rica has universal health care for its citizens, low funding and large populations means access to quality care and resources is low, and volunteers can provide much needed services. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about the health care system in this country as you support experts in the field during hospital rounds or as you help with vaccination programs in clinics or provide care in assisted living facilities.
Maximo Nivel is committed to providing custom placement fitted to your experience, and depending on your level of expertise, you may be given more responsibilities and direct contact with patients in the field. Placements run from 1-5 weeks, though the program recommends at least 2 weeks for a full experience. Here are a few highlights from past volunteers:
- “During my time in Costa Rica doing my medical program, I have had the best time. You get to learn so much, make life-long friendships, be provided with endless support, and make a difference.” – Ebonie
- “I worked alongside nurses and doctors in a retirement home and learned so much! As a nursing student, I felt the medical project really helped me become eager to learn more about healthcare.” – Isabella
- “Spending three weeks with Maximo doing medical volunteering has been a massive eye-opener. I have learnt so much from the country and the people.” – Nadia
2. Volunteer Programs in Bali with IVHQ
Based in the beautiful tourist town of Ubud, IVHQ’s programs allow medical volunteers to do everything from assisting in local clinics to teaching school children about basic hygiene, nutrition, and general health. In addition to a week of cultural immersion, IVHQ offers training in advance, but if you are already qualified and credentialed, you can take advantage of opportunities to provide health checkups in nearby villages and even implement health campaigns for the community. With accommodation, meals, and 24/7 support included in your fees, you’ll have the freedom to learn more about Bali and its people. For those looking to engage more deeply with the patients they care for, complimentary Bahasa Indonesia lessons are available.
Programs begin every Monday and run from 1-12 weeks, making it a flexible option for volunteers looking to go overseas this summer. With a rating of 9.62, IVHQ provides safe and profound experiences for volunteers. Here are some glowing reviews from just a few of the 154 found on Go Overseas:
- “I volunteered in Bali (Ubud) for the health care education program. This was an amazing trip and I LOVED working with all of the kiddos! Bali is absolutely beautiful and I highly recommend this destination. I enjoyed my experience with IVHQ.” – Olivia
- “I volunteered with IVHQ in Bali, doing the healthcare education program, and my experience was beyond amazing. The local staff in Bali were just as supportive, and I felt so safe in their care.” – Nadia
- “The staff were very nice with us, it was super safe in Bali and we really felt the impact we had while teaching the children. They were very receptive and needed the information we gave them.” – Jafar
3. Clinical Shadowing for Pre-Health Students in Ecuador with EcuaExperience
With an overall rating of 9.72 and 231 reviews on Go Overseas, EcuaExperience offers a combination of clinical shadowing, volunteering, and traveling for a cultural and vocational exchange like no other. Medical student volunteers can shadow experts in a wide variety of pre-med, pre-dental, biomed, and physio specialties. In addition to rotations in everything from internal medicine to obstetrics, volunteers have the chance to get outside and explore Ecuador’s natural wonders through guided activities that include rappelling down waterfalls and tubing in the Amazon.
EcuaExperience programs are fixed in length, making them a little less flexible than other offerings, but volunteers are guaranteed over sixty hours of hands-on training, and if you travel with a friend or two, you can earn 10% off your trip. Here are what previous volunteers said about their time:
- “I witnessed procedures (multiple surgeries) and learned skills that I wouldn't have until third year of medical school here in Canada. I would absolutely recommend this program to anyone who's considering working in the medical field.” – Shahrzad
- “The 18-day Ecuador trip had changed my perspective on life, I learned a lot as a pre-med student and as a person. I 100% recommend anyone who is adventurous and wants a glimpse of what being a medical professional looks like.” – Brittany
- “Signing up for Ecuaexperience was by far one of the best decisions I have ever made. The medical rotations were amazing and helped solidify my desire to enter into a career in health care.” – Elana
4. Affordable Volunteering Programs in Peru with Volunteering Solutions
All levels of medical experience are welcome to join in the daily activities of working health care professionals with Volunteering Solutions in Peru. To alleviate problems exacerbated by the sheer number of patients from lower socio-economic classes, you can provide support by giving vaccines, suturing wounds, shadowing doctors during operations, and assisting with routine checkups. The extensive diversity of patients and cases is intentional and designed to help you identify which health care areas you are most interested in. If you’re just beginning, don’t worry—responsibilities and placements are based on your experience so you’re always comfortably challenged but not overwhelmed.
Whether you are interested in radiology, maternal health, or public health, there is much work to be done in Peru to improve the lives of individuals. You’ll have the chance to work hard during the week and live like a local and explore on the weekends. Most programs through Volunteering Solutions run for 1-24 weeks. Here are what past volunteers have said about their time:
- “I highly recommend students who study medicine, nursing or dentistry to apply for this program because it will enhance your academic level and also will give you the opportunity to make new friends and learn more about new cultures.” – Hussein
- “The program itself was great, the staff there are super friendly and they will allow you to participate in as many things as you feel comfortable, as well as teach you that which you do not know. I vaccinated, shadowed doctors, did triage, and more.” – Andres
- “The experience was incredible as the healthcare team were extremely eager to train you and allow you to see many patients.” – Nicoleta
5. Volunteer with Medicine and Health Care with Fundación Aldeas de Paz
Gain medical experience and learn the realities of medicine in developing countries through hands-on work with Fundación Aldeas de Paz in the Dominican Republic. Through a variety of tasks, medical volunteers will support hospitals and neighborhood clinics with pediatric, diabetic, maternal, and other much-needed care. Fundación Aldeas de Paz offers pharmacy experience as well, and volunteers may be asked to provide ambulance support when necessary or help improve hospital procedures and workflow to serve patients better.
Your placement will depend on where you are in your medical education, but as long as you have initiative and enthusiasm, there is a perfect assignment waiting for you. Time commitments can be as short as 2 weeks, but if you have little experience going in, the program recommends going for at least 4 weeks. Here’s some highlights from past volunteers:
- “Although it was a short five weeks, I learned so much during my stay. Along with really experiencing the difference of health care that is found in Dominican Republic, as well as for the first time experiencing what it is like to teach, I learned a lot about myself and the culture of the Dominican Republic.” – Maya
- “Prior to coming, I had very little experience in nursing, so I was eager to see what my work in the hospital would consist of. Rather than working in one specific area, I was able to experience many different areas of the hospital, which allowed me to see and learn an immense amount.” – Julianna
- “The advantage of being a volunteer with Aldeas de Paz is that you can profit from numerous contacts which could help you, for instance, if you want to initiate a new project. Moreover, our coordinators in Samaná were always available for our problems and very supportive.” – Lennart
6. EMT Volunteer Program with International EMT Certification through United Hatzalah Colombia
If you’re interested in learning through fast-paced real-world experience, United Hatzalah Colombia offers medical volunteers a unique opportunity to gain first responder skills by training them to attend to emergencies on their iconic motorbike ambulances. Pre-hospital care is the emphasis of this program, and you’ll provide assistance to festivals and join search and rescue efforts in the highlands of Colombia. In addition to medical skills, you’ll learn Spanish inside a healthcare context that will enhance your ability to serve patients day to day.
United Hatzalah Colombia prides itself on arriving at accidents in 3 minutes or less across the entire country, and their presence is well established. Past medical volunteers have nothing but good things to say about their time with the program, which has a 100% approval rating from 46 reviewers. Here is what some previous volunteers had to say:
- “There was so much to do and see it was such a cool experience. From responding to traffic accidents to participating in rescue operations, there never really was a dull moment here. It was so cool to have the privilege to participate in this and I hope you are able to do the same!” – Rob
- “The experience itself was absolutely fantastic, giving me a really great taste of what being an EMT is like. It was such a great trip and has now convinced me to get into that line of work back home.”–Miles
- “It was so great being able to respond to real life emergencies and safe lives in such a unique setting. I really enjoyed learning tons of medical terminology in Spanish, definitely a really great skill to take back with me to the United States.”–Matthew
7. Mobile Clinic Project in Uganda with Ssamba Foundation
The Ssamba Foundation emphasizes community and health care projects, customizing placements for individuals based on experience and interest. Through Ssamba’s mobile clinic project, medical volunteers give care to people in remote rural areas of the Mukono district and to those who can’t afford treatment. In villages throughout Uganda, you’ll provide families with malarial treatment and mosquito nets, dress wounds, and save lives.
Programs run from 4-12 weeks all year round. This incredible learning experience that helps improve the living standard of local people has a 100% rating on Go Overseas, receiving the highest scores for fun and value. Here are some highlights from reviews:
- “It’s honestly hard to describe accurately in words my time at the hospital in Mukono—it was an incredible learning experience. From the moment I landed in Uganda, I felt very welcome and medical staff was so helpful.”–Natálie
- "From the first day you could really take charge of your own experience.”–Michele
- “Volunteering in Uganda was truly an amazing experience. Absolutely loved everything about the organization and would recommend it to everyone, regardless of where you're from or what you do for a living, they are affordable and very grassroots.”–Herbert
8. Health Dentistry for Kids in Kenya with Global Dental Relief
No dental experience needed to volunteer with Global Dental Relief! In a country with only about 1,000 dentists for a population of 40 million, medical volunteers are needed to help bring quality dental care and hygiene education to underprivileged children. Each project is designed for 13-18 volunteers, and during a week-long clinic, you’ll do fluoride treatments, sterilization, and even help with record keeping to make an immediate difference in the lives of over 500 children.
In addition to the clinic, a multi-day safari trip is included, so volunteers will have the chance to explore the natural beauty of Kenya before returning home. Global Dental Relief has a 100% rating on Go Overseas, and more than 43% percent of volunteers return to volunteer again within 3 years. Below is a selection from reviews left by past volunteers:
- “The dentists and staff were great teachers and helped me ease into the position. I was deeply moved by the students we served. The need in Kenya is great and we were able to serve hundreds of students. GDR is doing marvelous work and I intend to join another trip.” – Chuck
- “I learned that dental care is a powerful way to make an immediate difference in the lives of these children. I thought that I was going to help kids, but I realized that I got so much more out of the volunteer experience. I can’t wait to go back again!” – Patti
- “It was such an amazing experience for me, and really solidified my resolve for wanting to enter this profession. I was able to take part in everything from fluoride and sterilization to chairside assisting. ” – Maya
9. Medical, Nursing, and Dental Programs in Peru with A Broader View Volunteers Corp
Take your medical volunteering to Cusco, home to Machu Picchu, with A Broader View Volunteers Corp. Like other developing countries, Peru struggles with high poverty rates, especially in cities like Cusco, which means there are many opportunities for medical volunteers to step in and make an impact on these communities through medical, nursing, and dental care. A Broader View tailors their programs to fit the experience and interests of their volunteers, so you are able to attend to new mothers in the hospital, provide health education to teens, observe surgeries, or provide direct patient care in elderly care centers.
A Broader View takes volunteers year-round with placements lasting from 1-12 weeks, giving you flexibility to plan for summer. With perfect scores for support and safety, this program is a good, reliable choice. Here are some words from those who know firsthand:
- “I loved my Peru medical volunteer experience. It was a great way for me to go out of my comfort zone and experience a new country! Volunteering in the clinic was so rewarding and was a great way to be truly immersed in the culture! I would definitely do it again!” – Rosa
- “My experience as a medical volunteer in Peru was beyond the power of words to describe; it changed my life, and my outlook on life, permanently.” – Mellone
- “I always had something to do in town and the time flew by. Volunteering in Peru has taught me so much about different cultures, mentality, values, and way of life. My program in the clinic was exactly what I wanted to do.” – Graziella
10. Medical, Dental, and Veterinary Programs in Guatemala with Vida Volunteer
Promote health and ensure a long-lasting impact on lives of people (and even pets!) with Vida Volunteer in Guatemala. As a medical volunteer, you’ll have the chance to develop both intercultural and leadership skills while you serve others and work on diverse cases ranging from general health conditions to specific diseases manifesting in Central America. Whether you choose an emphasis on medical, dental, or veterinary care, you will work side by side with local physicians to diagnose, treat, and educate, acquiring medical skills through immersive training in cultural and clinical settings.
Vida Volunteer’s world-famous homestays ensure a warm welcome and stay for all medical volunteers. Placements are 9, 11, or 13 days long, and unlike other programs in this list, they only run on specific dates, so be sure to schedule your spot in advance. Here are some insights from past volunteers:
- “It has left me motivated to want a career in medicine and has left me wanting to go back on another medical trip with Vida. The memories I made during this trip will last a life time and Vida is definitely worth recommending to a friend.” — Shaili
- “I was able to practice and learn, and affirmed my belief that I would like to pursue a career in dentistry. The dental doctors went above and beyond to support the dental students, ensuring to answer all and any questions we had, and provided amazing demonstrations.” — Aoife
- “This trip is a great experience for students looking for experience! The purpose and the work we do involved in this organization is absolutely incredible and once in a lifetime opportunity.” – Emily
11. Virtual Global Health Fellowship with Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children
Take your medical skills to the next level without leaving the comfort of your home with FIMRC’s Virtual Global Health Fellowship! Tackling a different health topic every week, you’ll gain global health experience and contribute to research and expanding efforts to bring care to populations all over the globe. Monitoring and evaluating development work, discussing social determinants of health, studying chronic diseases, and exploring environmental concerns are just part of the work you’ll do under global health and development experts in addition to virtual clinic observations and case studies.
This program is relatively new on the scene, but if you are skeptical about the value of a virtual medical program, FIMRC has received a 100% rating on Go Overseas, and all the reviewers are nothing but highly enthusiastic about their experience. Here’s some of what they had to say:
- “They had shadowing opportunities which really gave a taste of what telemedicine is like and would help future practitioners get used to the changes in the delivery of healthcare.” – Jemima
- “I also gained clinical experience through the shadowing and case study discussions. The program being virtual did not take away from the learning experience. It was so well developed that it felt like learning in person.” – Aylin
- “The Virtual Global Health Fellowship really helped me to open my eyes on the world surrounding me and I am extremely grateful for this opportunity. I know for a fact that all the information I have learned will not only be helpful for my future studies and career, but also in order to be more aware of the situations and differences of different peoples all around the globe.” – Britany
Healthcare volunteering overseas is a great way to build up your medical skills and gain international experience as you touch the lives of patients all over the globe. The medical volunteering organizations and programs listed above can help you find just the right place to volunteer. Let the summer of 2021 define your future medical career and change how you see your place in a global community.
This article was originally published in December 2019, and it was updated in March 2021.