Developing countries are unique by their own rights. The organization of healthcare is quite different from what is typically seen in developed countries.
Many benefits arise to medics who undertake electives in such countries.
1. Preparedness to work in a multicultural environment
The world is fast changing, and doctors now have no option but to work in an environment which is rich with people of very different backgrounds. To survive in such an environment, we have to learn how to coexist peacefully with each other, without letting our backgrounds to be a barrier. Developing countries are full of intercultural mixes. A medical student taking part in an elective in a third world country has to learn how to interact with people of different social backgrounds, which prepares the student for what awaits them upon completion of studies: working in a world full of diverse cultures
2. Opportunities to work in a challenging environment
Developing countries are known for their hardships, not just in the delivery of healthcare but in virtually everything. The kind of experience you get in such countries hardens you and prepares you to work in any country in the world. They do not have modern 16 slices CT scan or sophisticated MRIs to image the head or the abdomen, yet doctors treat patients who eventually get well. Original drugs are hard to come by, and if you are lucky to, you will have to cough out some amount that will seriously dent your pocket. Health insurance is really for a reserved few, and most facilities will not even have some of the things you might consider basic.
3. Firsthand experience with rare diseases
It is quite obvious that geographical locations have a significant influence on disease patterns. Developed countries have some diseases that are rare in other countries. Malaria, for example is a disease that is endemic in a number of countries and is a major contributor to the morbidity and mortality. Developing countries are seriously battling with communicable diseases such as diarrhea and tuberculosis. You will have an opportunity to increase your knowledge about such conditions, including the presentation, investigations, management and prognosis of the same.
4. An opportunity to identify barriers to good healthcare systems
Countries have different health systems. Referral systems vary from country to country. An enthusiastic student will engage in some sort of a research to identify barriers to the delivery of healthcare. Some reasons will be straightforward, but others will require an accurate analysis of complicated relationships. It is also a good opportunity to come up with interventions which can bridge the gap between the current quality of healthcare and the desired levels. In other words, it is a good chance to give back to the country where you are doing the elective.
5. An opportunity to tour the world
It is not all about ward rounds and long clinics. Developing countries are endowed with breath taking scenes that attract tourists. Students should take some time off to visit some of these sites and to breathe some fresh air away from polluted towns. These may be lakes, national parks, museums, animal orphanages, gorges or waterfalls. Make good use of the opportunity to travel, for you never know when you shall have a chance to visit such beautiful places again.
6. A time to make friends of a different origin
This benefit cannot be overemphasized. Electives are a time to interact with natives. It is a time to make new friends. It is a time to enjoy the hospitality of residents of developing countries. Do not undermine such relations; they can go further than you imagine.
Choosing, planning and organising your medical elective abroad can be a complex and time-consuming process. Luckily, there are a few specialist companies, which have been running medical elective programmes in countries of the developing world for over a decade now.
Jacob Ross has extensive experience of organising healthcare elective placements in several African countries. Jacob has collaborated with several healthcare placement specialist organsations in Africa and Asia.