New Global Health Course for Internal Medicine Residents

After many months of preparation, this week I launched the first Global Health Course for Internal Medicine Residents at GWU. This course has three objectives

  1. To prepare residents who will likely go on short-term medical missions abroad either during or after residency
  2. To provide residents with a basic understanding of global health principles and trends
  3. To expose residents to career paths that include global health work

The course was seminar-style for a small group of residents. The list of topics included:

  1. Broad topics – Introduction to global health, vaccine-preventable diseases, health systems, health workforce
  2. Clinical topics – HIV, malaria, parasites, NTDs, malnutrition, chronic diseases, minor trauma, adolescent health and a lab session where we looked at tropical diseases, practiced preparing and reading basic gram and acid-fast stains
  3. Specific perspectives – Health systems after a crisis, using a limited formulary, the ethics of short term medical missions
  4. Spotlight on specific countries – Honduras, Dominican Republic, Haiti and many examples from Ethiopia woven in to the talks.

The one-week intensive course has gone very well. An opportunity for residents to become familiar with common terms used in global health (like MMR, Infant mortality, DALYs, MDGs) and to start to compare countries using values for each of these. The course offered residents an opportunity to meet a number of experts from different fields. We deliberately started each session with a discussion about the speaker’s career path so that residents could get a sense of how careers often evolve into global health. The more clinical discussions were also very well-received. An opportunity for residents to review what they rarely see and to practice skills that have become out-sourced in our system (such as gram staining) but would likely be expected of a doctor practicing in a more resource-limited environment.

All in all, a very successful week. We will certainly run the course again next year and consider expanding it to take more residents and include more topics. As medical missions and global health become more popular, more residency programs will likely be inspired to offer these kinds of experiences for interested residents.

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