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Pre-Med Shadowing Experience Overseas
Medical school admissions are more competitive than ever, and students are expected to go above and beyond in the pursuit of their future careers. Many pre-med students maintain a hefty list of extracurricular and volunteer activities, both within and outside of the healthcare environment, in order to satisfy increasingly selective admissions committees. A crucial method by which pre-med students augment their applications and interviews is by participating in a practice known as “shadowing.“
What is pre-medical shadowing?
Shadowing involves observing health professionals performing their day-to-day duties within the clinical environment. Doctors mentor students as they perform their rounds on the wards. In some instances, students are able to observe procedures in the operating room.
Local pre-med shadowing opportunities are sometimes available, but they are often dependent upon students having personal connections to the health community. While some students have family members in healthcare or have a foot in the door through volunteer work at a nearby facility, other students struggle to find relevant shadowing experience.
To fill the gap, many companies have begun looking further afield, pairing global health education with clinical shadowing experience. Gap Medics, which offers overseas shadowing internships to aspiring doctors, nurses, physician assistants, dentists, and midwives, is one of such companies and has bases in Africa and Asia. It is constantly adding to its list of destinations for clinical observation.
The Benefits of Shadowing Overseas
At its core, shadowing allows students to get up-close and personal to the clinical environment. By observing, asking questions, and speaking with patients and doctors, students gain a level of understanding and familiarity that will benefit them further along in their studies. Shadowing overseas has the auxiliary benefit of allowing students to draw comparisons between various clinical environments, specifically between hospitals at home and those at their destination countries.
Insight into Medical Careers
Many pre-med students have limited practical knowledge of the daily responsibilities that their future careers will entail. While under the mentorship of experienced doctors, pre-med students get a behind-the-scenes look at everything from department meetings to paperwork to surgical procedures. By shadowing health professionals in different nations, students can juxtapose the varying duties that doctors have from place to place. For instance, local diseases can influence treatment protocols and the availability of certain resources, such as equipment and personnel, can affect patient handling.
Understanding Global Health (diversity)
Healthcare everywhere finds common ground in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. While this basic tenet remains constant across borders, the methods by which it is upheld and the extent to which it is achieved vary greatly between locations. The study of global health addresses the diverse application of healthcare around the world and focuses on everything from improving human health to reducing disparities in healthcare. Pre-medical shadowing overseas imparts students with first-hand insight into these vital topics. Gap Medics programs, for example, emphasize the importance of global health study by enlisting the help of local doctors in their Global Health Tutorials. These lectures deal with the ethical and practical dilemmas faced by health professionals in the area and touch on everything from common Tanzanian diseases to universal healthcare in Thailand.
Networking and Personal Development
As they learn and explore, pre-med students who shadow abroad step out of familiar territory and establish confidence and independence—but this is not a lonely endeavor. Joining an overseas shadowing program is an excellent way for pre-med students to network with their peers. Students who participate in such opportunities share common goals and ambitions, and this allows them to form valuable and lasting relationships. These relationships provide an outlet for aspiring doctors to express their opinions, share their experiences, and find support, both throughout and beyond their years in health education.
Augmenting Interviews and Personal Statements
Pre-medical shadowing experience demonstrates to admissions committees that students are invested in their careers. Students who have shadowed doctors have had the opportunity to assess the profession in context, allowing them to make informed decisions about the pursuit of medical education. While this is a benefit of pre-med shadowing regardless of location, shadowing abroad provides an interesting alternative to traditional experience. Whether students’ visits are characterized by adventure or compassion, an overseas shadowing internship serves as an exciting twist to the usual application or interview.
Finding a Reputable Program
While some students gain overseas shadowing experience through health organizations or their universities, these programs can be highly selective. Others students gain experience with the help of companies, like Gap Medics. When searching for an overseas shadowing opportunity, students should be careful to choose a strictly observational program—pre-medical students are not qualified for hands-on experience, which could put their careers and patient health at risk. The American Association of Medical Colleges has published a set of guidelines for pre-medical students participating in clinical experience abroad, and this is guidance to which Gap Medics strictly adheres. In addition, students should be sure to choose a program that has strong support systems in place in case of emergency and keeps up to date on advice from government travel authorities, such as the U.S. Department of State.
Preparing for Pre-Medical Shadowing Overseas
Once students have located a reputable program, they should look into the costs and requirements of travel. For instance, students should verify whether or not meals and accommodations are provided. Certain countries may require visas and/or permits in order to work within their hospitals, whereas others may simply require a tourist visa. Students should research all of the ins and outs of their programs in order to determine what costs they will have to cover and the legal requirements that they will have to meet.
Students should be sensitive toward local laws and customs in and out of the hospital. In addition, they should familiarize themselves with the local area and transport systems. By informing themselves, pre-medical students can have a rewarding, educational, and exciting experience abroad that will set them apart from other medical school applicants.