International Health Care Volunteering.
April 3, 2008 12:57 PM   Subscribe

How can I find a summer program where I can provide medical care overseas, without any actual medical training?

I'm looking for a summer program where I can perform actual medical duties to impoverished nations.
An example is a friend who went with her aunt to Mexico in order to help doctors fix cleft palates on children.
For so many reasons I want to experience this.

I have no medical training, but 3 years of a&p/gross anatomy, and I'm a very motivated worker and fast learner.

So, now what? How do I do this?
I don't mind if it isn't paid, but it would be nice to have my airfare paid for as I am a broke college student.

Any help is so very much appreciated.
posted by ackeber to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure if this is applicable to you, but this program runs volunteer abroad programs to various third world and developing countries. You have to pay THEM, however, so it might not appeal, but it would look very good on a resume.

This is the page dealing with medical and health volunteering.

I've wanted to do this program for a few years but have never had the time/money to participate. I hope you end up finding what you're looking for :)
posted by Planet F at 1:18 PM on April 3, 2008

This site also has lots of listings for volunteering in health care around the world without previous experience. I'm not sure if it's affiliated with the canadian page that Planet F linked to.
posted by vytae at 2:11 PM on April 3, 2008

i think you have a really great impulse to go out and get experience and help people- but i would urge you to be careful. this is a really sticky ethical situation that a lot of people struggle with, but you don't want to be seen as an unqualified person practicing on poor third world people because they can't access anyone better. don't do anything to anyone in a third world country that you wouldn't to do someone in your homeland. please be conscious of this and good luck on your adventure!
posted by genmonster at 2:35 PM on April 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Nearly all volunteer programs either require experience and/or credentials in the field, or require payment from the volunteers, or both (or are scams). Doctors and nurses and medical personnel need to know how to do their jobs, just like they would if they were applying for a job at any hospital anywhere in the world. The reason for this is that a non-profit organization with limited resources doesn't want to spend huge sums of those resources transporting untrained people all over the world and training them. Why would they? There are untrained people in the countries where people need help already. Why would they pay to fly you to a developing country to play doctor when they can provide medical training to a person who already lives there and get the same result: a non-doctor qualified to provide very minor treatment for common ailments. If you want to be paid to volunteer, you need to have substantial training that the locals do not.

As a side note, I think you're being unrealistic in thinking that any organization you work for would give you "actual medical duties." Even if you pay for a program, you're not going to be performing medical exams or making diagnoses. You certainly wouldn't be performing surgery; not for any organization that isn't grossly negligent. You wouldn't want someone with your credentials practicing medicine on you, would you? Well, neither do poor people. Just because they're poor, that doesn't mean that they don't have standards. They don't want medical care provided by someone with just a couple of years of anatomy classes and no training. You're not qualified to practice medicine in any country, and you shouldn't be trying to do so abroad just because you want to have an "experience."
posted by decathecting at 2:46 PM on April 3, 2008 [4 favorites]

(or, what genmonster said)
posted by decathecting at 2:46 PM on April 3, 2008

For reference, the MSF-USA (Doctors Without Borders) field recruiting criteria.

This is a list of medicine-related internships abroad. Looks like a mixed bag, but if you trawl through here at least you'll have a better idea of what's available.
posted by dhartung at 5:34 PM on April 3, 2008

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