While medical school is a common path for many, few of those students focus on global health. Between the sentiment that we should focus on the problems in our own country to the desire to focus more on the entrepreneurial side, there are many people who are forgoing global health and choosing more “local” paths.
We should not be creating this dichotomy between local and global health. The definition of global health offered by the Committee on the U.S. Commitment to Global Health states that global health involves health issues that transcend national boundaries and might best be solved by cooperative measures. Here are a few reasons we need to emphasize global health in medical programs:
- Our world is interconnected
With people constantly traveling internationally, national boundaries don’t carry as much significance as they used to when it comes to disease control. Take the Ebola outbreak, for example. In the U.S, we largely ignored the outbreak until it reached our soil. It is not surprisingly that with the amount of air travel that occurs, a disease cannot be contained nationally or regionally. Technology is making the world smaller and the medical profession needs to accommodate this. Future physicians should all get basic epidemiology training so that they can recognize suspected disease outbreaks.
2) Doing residencies abroad can make better doctors
Global health professionals have as much to learn from the communities in which they work as the communities do from them. Doing clinical work abroad requires a level of humility. Another important part of the global health field is cultural sensitivity. Doctors learn the importance of respecting patients of different cultures and working alongside people of different cultures. In addition, much of the work done abroad is in areas with low resources. Research shows that medical students and residents who work in settings with limited resources may become more capable physicians. When a medical student is removed from a technology-intensive environment, he or she learns to think outside the box. If all physicians were trained this way, there would likely be a decrease in the excessive medical testing that is a part of our rapidly increasing healthcare expenditure.
3) More and more medical students are interested in global health today.
While it may seem as if medical students don’t have an interest in global health, the truth is they do. It just isn’t as available to them. Many students are taking away years for international fellowships. A number of these students seek out jobs abroad after graduating from residency. But international work is very competitive. Doctors Without Borders, for example, is extremely difficult to get into. There needs to be more emphasis on global health in medical school so that students can fulfill their passions of helping people all around the world.
We should not separate global health issues and U.S. health issues. With the frequency of airplane travel, epidemics do not often stay within particular areas. Furthermore, we should help people everywhere rather than just people who are close to us in proximity because this is the right thing to do. It is important that medical schools and residencies put more emphasis on global health so that people throughout the world can have better healthcare.