Whether you are a medical student in the middle of your medical education and are asking yourself “why am I doing this?” or you have simply wanted to explore a new path in life and medicine sounds exciting, consider doing a medical internship abroad for your gap year! By following this path, you will have the chance to not only learn more about the human body, travel and add experience to your resume but most importantly you will help people that are in urgent need of medical assistance.
Medicine/Nursing: This is a perfect opportunity for all doctors and nurses-to-be. Such an internship will give you a chance to observe what you have learned in the classroom in a clinical setting. Shadowing a physician in a hospital and observing procedures will give you a glimpse of what to look forward to in your medical career. Furthermore, learning and seeing first-hand more about health on a global scale will undoubtedly be a very inspirational once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Medical Research: For the more academics-oriented gap year volunteers who are interested in studying different diseases and treatments, a medical research gap year might be a perfect fit. Such opportunities are likely to be found and funded through American academic institutions, which makes it possible for you to still be involved in the research even after your return from abroad.
HIV/AIDS Awareness: Combatting HIV and AIDS is one of the biggest and most difficult health battles that humankind has yet to win. Although by the end of 2012 close to a million of the people living with HIV from low and middle income countries received antiretroviral therapy (ART) thanks to various HIV/AIDS medical and awareness campaigns, there are 19 million other people who are eligible for ART but still lack access to the drugs. By participating in an HIV/AIDS awareness program abroad that doesn’t necessarily require a medical background, you can help thousands or even millions of people get access to the drugs they need. (AIDS)
Disabled Care: Helping and living with mentally and/or physically disabled children is a challenge, even with the technological advances and medical access in the Western world. So you can only imagine how difficult the lives of disabled children from developing countries are. The best part for this type of medical gap year program is that, as long as you are interested in working with children and maybe have some relevant experience, you can easily work in a school, orphanage or hospital and improve the quality of life of deserving small humans.
Health Education: Prevention is another crucial part of medicine that doesn’t require extensive post-college medical education. The work of people who choose to spend their gap year doing health education internships usually consists of conducting health education classes with people of all ages at hospitals, schools, workplaces or public forums. The most common topics of the education classes are often safe sexual and reproductive health, healthy diets and sanitation.
When applying for a medical internship, give yourself plenty of time in advance to do research on the region and/or the type of internship in which you are interested. Also, don’t wait until the last moment to fill out the application – you will be surprised how rigorous certain applications may be. There are a number of providers offering medical internship programs that are great for gap year students. Some of these include:
Volunteering Solutions is a leading volunteer and internship program provider offering programs in multiple countries around the world. Check out their Healthcare Internships in Nepal, in which interns work with nurses and doctors in public and private hospitals. The internships are 1-3 months and the program activities vary depending on the student's knowledge and skills.
Gap Medics, a top provider for programs for aspiring medical workers, whose Physician Shadowing Program in Tanzania is a unique opportunity for pre-med students to spend 1-4 weeks in a Tanzanian hospital. Students can choose between shadowing practitioners specializing in the fields of dentistry, pediatrics, surgery, and obstetrics.
Eli Abroad is a prime provider for medical internships. Their Medical Internship in Ecuador is a perfect fit for any pre-medical and medical student who is interested in improving their Spanish skills and learning some medical vocabulary in Spanish. Interns are placed in a Ecuadorian hospital based on their skill-level and experience.
Frontier is a leading provider of volunteer and gap year programs in various countries around the world. They offer internships as part of the Nepal Children's Hospital Medical Project, where participants work at a health center that provides complete healthcare and medical services to the local community. Day-to-day activities vary, depending on the experience and knowledge of the participants.
African Impact is a well-established provider of volunteer and intern programs in a number of African countries including Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The majority of their programs are opened to inexperienced volunteers who go on home visits, assist in local hospitals with basic medical, and administration tasks.
Many of the medical internships are semester-long, lasting 3 months, and can be found through US universities who partner with a university or a health institution in the destination country. Talk to your professor, the department chair of the pre-medical or medical program at your school, the career center, and the study abroad office.
Additional Resources for Medical Internships include:
- The World Health Organization
- The Clinton Global Initiative
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention