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Global Health Educational Engagement—A Tale of Two Models

Rassiwala, Jasmine; Vaduganathan, Muthiah MD, MPH; Kupershtok, Mania; Castillo, Frank M. MD, MA; Evert, Jessica MD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3182a6d0b0

Global health learning experiences for medical students sit at the intersection of capacity building, ethics, and education. As interest in global health programs during medical school continues to rise, Northwestern University Alliance for International Development, a student-led and -run organization at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, has provided students with the opportunity to engage in two contrasting models of global health educational engagement.

Eleven students, accompanied by two Northwestern physicians, participated in a one-week trip to Matagalpa, Nicaragua, in December 2010. This model allowed learning within a familiar Western framework, facilitated high-volume care, and focused on hands-on experiences. This approach aimed to provide basic medical services to the local population.

In July 2011, 10 other Feinberg students participated in a four-week program in Puerto Escondido, Mexico, which was coordinated by Child Family Health International, a nonprofit organization that partners with native health care providers. A longer duration, homestays, and daily language classes hallmarked this experience. An intermediary, third-party organization served to bridge the cultural and ethical gap between visiting medical students and the local population. This program focused on providing a holistic cultural experience for rotating students.

Establishing comprehensive global health curricula requires finding a balance between providing medical students with a fulfilling educational experience and honoring the integrity of populations that are medically underserved. This article provides a rich comparison between two global health educational models and aims to inform future efforts to standardize global health education curricula.

Ms. Rassiwala is a medical student, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois.

Dr. Vaduganathan is a resident, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.

Ms. Kupershtok is a medical student, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois.

Dr. Castillo is assistant professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois.

Dr. Evert is executive director, Child Family Health International, and clinical faculty, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California.

Funding/Support: Child Family Health International funded the Western institutional review board application fee for this program evaluation.

Other disclosures: Dr. Jessica Evert is the medical director of Child Family Health International (CFHI), the intermediary non-profit organization that coordinated Model 2. As such, she is not independent of one of the organizations discussed in this program evaluation. It is important to note that students elected to organize reflection sessions in Model 2 independently. CFHI and other third-party organizations were not directly involved in the reflection sessions detailed in the program evaluation.

Ethical approval: The University of California, San Francisco Committee on Human Research (CHR) was presented with this project and considered the contents to be a reflective description of two educational approaches rather than research. Thus, it was deemed neither necessary nor appropriate for CHR submission. The Western institutional review board (IRB) provided a Regulatory Opinion of IRB Exemption.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Evert, 995 Market St., Suite 1104, San Francisco, CA 94103; telephone: (415) 957-9000; fax: (415) 840-0486; e-mail: or

© 2013 by the Association of American Medical Colleges