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“We Learn From Them, They Learn From Us”: Global Health Experiences and Host Perceptions of Visiting Health Care Professionals

Kraeker, Christian MD, FRCPC, MSc, DTM&H; Chandler, Clare MSc, PhD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3182857b8a
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Purpose It is increasingly common for health care professionals from developed countries to travel to developing regions of the world to learn or teach. This project aimed to describe the perceptions held by health care professionals in a developing region toward those who visit their communities to learn or teach.

Method Semistructured interviews were conducted in July, 2011, with nine health care professionals from the University of Namibia School of Medicine. Questions revolved around participants’ perceptions of benefits, harms, and ethical impressions of a health care professional visiting from a developed country. Interviews were tape-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed qualitatively using an inductive, iterative approach.

Results The interview analysis identified three main narratives that shaped participant perceptions of visits: (1) culture, context, and concern, (2) expectations, intentions, and miscommunications, and (3) partnership and the desire to share and gain knowledge.

Conclusions Participants’ comments supported actively seeking out information regarding cultural and environmental context before visiting, completing a needs assessment to ensure that activities are needed and relevant, attempting to formulate long-term sustainable relationships, and traveling with the appropriate attitude. These themes provide valuable insight into how international educational collaborations can be created in order to be mutually beneficial.

Dr. Kraeker is assistant professor, Department of Internal Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Dr. Chandler is lecturer in social science, Department of Global Health and Development, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Kraeker, Juravinski Hospital, 711 Concession St., Room A3-61, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8V 1C3; telephone: (905) 521-2100, ext. 42471; fax: (905) 575-7320; e-mail:

© 2013 Association of American Medical Colleges