International Opportunities

Many students are interested in spending time abroad. This is a great way to explore another culture and get out of your comfort zone. One way to do this is through study abroad. Study abroad is not a requirement but it is an added bonus in exploring your interests and personal strengths. There are certain times during undergraduate study when this is more opportune and does not interfere with the application process. Please see a Pre-Health advisor to discuss your plans. DO NOT TAKE PRE-REQUISITE SCIENCE OR MATH COURSES WHILE DOING STUDY ABROAD. These courses should be taken at your home institution only. Contact the UF International Center for more information.

Medical mission trips offered through private organizations are also popular with students. UF does not endorse any of these programs. These are private programs that you should carefully research. Students participate at their own risk and should be fully aware of the ethical issues involved in international medical volunteer programs. PLEASE READ the following guidelines before investigating programs. Remember, if you wouldn’t do it here, don’t do it there! You should not be testing, diagnosing, treating, or prescribing unless you are a licensed professional eligible to practice in the country you are in. This applies to working with people AND animals. Every country has unique laws that govern who can provide patient care. Performing duties you are unqualified to do can have severe, even fatal, consequences for both you and the patient.

Guidelines for Pre-Medical Students doing clinical work abroad
Guidelines for Pre-Dental Students doing clinical work abroad

Even if you are simply observing, consider this from the AAMC:

“The mere presence of students can impact a clinic or hospital setting, even when the student does little more than shadow local clinicians. Students would do well to consider what it is like for a patient to be observed by a comparatively wealthy young foreigner, often of a different race or gender. For some patients, the presence of a student signifies interest and is appreciated. For others, an observer inhibits full disclosure.

If, as is natural and appropriate at home, the student wishes to ask questions, it is hard to know how this will be interpreted by the patient. Does the question show concern, or does it distract the physician, taking time and attention from the patient? Does the question increase the patient’s anxiety? In crowded hospital wards, in the interests of privacy, physicians often speak very quietly, and only those who are close can see and hear. Again, how might the presence of foreign observers affect communication, caregiving or the learning opportunities of local students by taking up limited space? In short, it is important for students to recognize that their physical presence can be helpful and, at the same time, potentially disruptive for the people with whom they interact.”

From the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics December 2006, Volume 8, Number 12: 851-854.