Problem: International medical electives typically represent a unidirectional flow of students from economically advantaged countries in the global “North” to resource-poor nations in the global “South.” Little is known about the impact of bilateral exchanges on students from less affluent nations.
Approach: Since 2007, students from the University of Michigan Medical School (UMMS) and medical schools in Ghana have engaged in a bilateral clinical exchange program. A 45-item online survey was distributed to all 73 Ghanaian medical students who had rotated at UMMS from 2008 to 2010 to assess perspectives on the value and impact of their participation.
Outcomes: Incoming Ghanaian students outnumbered outgoing UMMS students 73 to 33 during the study period. Of eligible Ghanaian students, 70% (51/73) participated in the survey, with 40 of 51 providing valid data on at least 50% of questions. Ninety-seven percent (37/38) reported that the UMMS rotation was valuable to their medical training, 90% (35/39) reported changes in how they approach patient care, and 77% (24/31) reported feeling better equipped to serve patients in their home community. Eighty-five percent of students (28/33) felt more inclined to pursue training opportunities outside of their home country after their rotation at UMMS.
Next Steps: More studies are needed to determine the feasibility of bidirectional exchanges as well as the short-term and long-term impact of rotations on students from underresourced settings and their hosts in more resource-rich environments.