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Are We There Yet? Preparing Canadian Medical Students for Global Health Electives

Anderson, Kelly C. MD; Slatnik, Michael A. MD; Pereira, Ian; Cheung, Eileen MD; Xu, Kunyong MPH; Brewer, Timothy F. MD, MPH

Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31823e23d4
Global Health Education

Purpose: To understand the current landscape and the evolution of predeparture training (PDT) in Canadian medical education.

Method: The authors surveyed one faculty and one student global health leader at each of Canada's 17 medical schools in February 2008 and May 2010 to assess the delivery of and requirements for PDT at each institution. The authors then used descriptive statistics to compare responses across schools and years.

Results: In 2008, one faculty and one student representative from each of the 17 Canadian medical schools completed the survey; in 2010, 17 faculty and 16 student representatives responded. The number of medical schools offering PDT grew substantially from 2008 to 2010 (11/17 [65%] versus 16/17 [94%]). Three of the five new programs in 2010 were student run. The number of schools with mandatory PDT nearly doubled (6/17 [35%] versus 11/17 [65%]). However, institutional funding remained scarce, as 10 of 16 programs had budgets of less than $500 in 2010. PDT content, frequency, and format varied from school to school.

Conclusions: Medical students have been responsible for organizing the majority of new PDT. To ensure quality and sustainability, however, faculty must play a more central role in the planning and implementation of such training programs. Medical schools must continue to reevaluate how best to maximize global health electives for trainees and the communities in which they study. PDT offers one avenue for schools to ensure that students are safe and socially accountable during their time abroad.

Author Information

Dr. Anderson is a family medicine resident, St. Michael's Hospital, University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Dr. Slatnik is a family medicine resident, University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine, Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada.

Mr. Pereira is a fourth-year medical student, University of Western Ontario Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, London, Ontario, Canada.

Dr. Cheung is a family medicine resident, Toronto East General Hospital, University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Mr. Xu is a third-year medical student, McMaster University Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Dr. Brewer is director, McGill Global Health Programs, McGill University Faculty of Medicine, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Anderson, Department of Family and Community Medicine, Health Centre at 80 Bond, 80 Bond St., Toronto, Ontario, M5B 1X2, Canada; e-mail:

First published online December 20, 2011

© 2012 Association of American Medical Colleges