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International medical student electives: opportunity to support health worker education
  1. Michael F Bath1,
  2. Eleanor J Norris2,
  3. J E F Fitzgerald3
  1. 1 Centre for Neuroscience, Surgery and Trauma, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK
  2. 2 St Mary's GP Specialty Training, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK
  3. 3 King’s Centre for Global Health, King's College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Mr J E F Fitzgerald, King’s Centre for Global Health, King's College London, London WC2R 2LS, UK; jeffitzgerald{at}

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Strengthening the workforce in low-resource countries is one approach promoted by the WHO to develop global health systems.1 Cooperation between countries in healthcare workforce education is an important element to this, which can take the form of technical assistance in policy, quality and regulation, or through more practical efforts to build capacity, deliver content and enhance access. Such practical attempts are often hindered by a lack of trained educators with appropriate subject matter expertise or limited resources to support potential deployment. While a number of initiatives have been trialled to address this,2 the potential role of visiting medical students has been largely overlooked.

Medical student influence and participation within the global health sphere are growing. Several student-led groups have emerged in recent years that have significantly influenced the development and advocacy for health systems internationally, such as Students for Global Health ( and the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations ( However, medical student involvement in health worker education and health system strengthening has not previously been fully considered.

Over 6000 elective students each year travel to low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) from the UK alone, yet many of these electives remain a largely unsupervised and unsupported introduction into global health.3 Medical electives in low-resource settings have previously drawn criticism, bemoaned for their role in ‘medical tourism’, as students may provide …

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  • Contributors MFB, EJN, and JEF were all involved in the conception, design, write-up and revision of this article.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests JEF is an Honorary Clinical Advisor for the Lifebox Foundation NGO (unpaid), a trustee of the Surgical Research Gateway Foundation charity (unpaid) and a consultant for the global healthcare practice at KPMG International (paid).

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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