Incorporating a Global Health Track in a GME Program

I’m hoping to start a Global Health Track (GHT) in our internal medicine residency program. While many of our residents are currently doing international rotations -these are arranged by individuals and don’t incorporate any formal global health teaching. That said, we have seen year after year that there is interest from both current and prospective residents to have more global health training. With an increasing need to steer medical students towards more general practice in medicine, I think the time is right to encourage global health teaching in GME programs.  Studies have even shown that international experiences do influence career choices in public health, community health and/or primary care.

I envision our global health track to incorporate some coursework in global health done longitudinally over the latter two years of training. In addition residents would complete an international rotation (considered their field work). Prior to their trip, they would complete a ‘country assessment’ which would require them to learn about the health care context of their destination and learn how to access this information on the web.  Residents would be required to complete a scholarly project over the two years, something that incorporates their field work experience.  The final product of their scholarly project might be a paper or a presentation.  Residents would be assigned a faculty mentor from within the Dept of Internal Medicine – someone who is already active in global health and who could provide guidance on their project, help in preparing for the international experience and most importantly career guidance.

As I have spent much of the last few weeks exploring different models of global health tracks in other residency programs, it has become clear that one of the critical pieces of this program will be funding.  Residents should get financial support for their international experience. Without funding, it would be difficult to envision the sustainability of such a program as only those who could ‘afford’ to go abroad would sign up.

One of the programs I found particularly inspiring was the one at University of Pittsburg – the structure is similar to what I envision and the curriculum provides a good balanced approach to global health.

As I look for options for coursework in global health, one obvious resource is our School of Public Health but another option is online material. To this end, I found a document entitled “Developing Residency Training in Global Health” published by GHEC to be very helpful.

My goal is to have this track, or at least a more formal experience in global health, established for the next academic year.

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