Student participation in global health electives and community service initiatives is associated with a number of favorable outcomes, and student interest in participating in such experiences is high. Increasingly, medical schools are facilitating and supervising global health opportunities. The inherent risks and uncertainties of global community service deserve careful consideration as schools engage more actively in this area. This article presents how one institution managed three crises in three electives in a single year. The H1N1 flu epidemic impacted a group of students bound for Mexico, a political upheaval affected a student group working in Honduras, and a hurricane threatened a student group in Nicaragua. This article outlines lessons learned from responding to these crises. Well-defined institutional travel policies, clear communication plans in the event of an emergency, a responsible administrative entity for global experiences, and formal predeparture training for students and faculty can help institutions better respond to unpredictable events. A comprehensive examination of these lessons and reflections on how to institutionalize the various components may help other institutions prepare for such events and lessen negative impact on student learning.
Dr. Steiner is associate professor, Department of Family Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Dr. Carlough is associate professor, Department of Family Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Dr. Dent is associate dean of student affairs, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Dr. Peña is dean, School of Medicine of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua, León, Nicaragua.
Dr. Morgan is associate professor, Department of Internal Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Steiner, Department of Family Medicine CB# 7595, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-7595; telephone: (919) 966-3106; fax: (919) 966-6125; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.