By April Bailey
If you’re a medical resident looking to boost your CV, volunteering overseas can be a good way not only to stand out to future employers but also to develop professionally and experience a new environment and culture. It also has the potential to be a life-changing experience, one that increases your passion for the profession, enhances your basic skills, provides administrative experience and enables you to network with others from across the globe.
There are many short- and long-term overseas volunteer opportunities out there for residents. The stipulations vary, and most organizations that facilitate the opportunities have a limited number of spots available. Because of this, you’ll want to apply early - likely for more than one opportunity - so you can schedule accordingly. It is also important to note that, depending on the organization and because you are not yet certified, you may not get to practice your specialty in the same manner you do in residency, but any position can be beneficial to you. Common requirements, relevant organizations and additional resources are listed below to help you get started finding the right opportunity.
- Passport and Health Insurance: Since you’ll be leaving the country, you will need a valid passport before your trip. If you already have one, you need to be sure it won’t expire before you return. Your health insurance policy must also be up to date.
- Vaccinations: Depending on the country you’ll be traveling to, you may have to get specific vaccinations and provide proof of them. You can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Travelers’ Health website to know which vaccinations you may need.
- Paperwork: In addition to providing documentation of your credentials, some organizations require you to submit recommendation letters from past or current mentors.
- Costs: Most organizations require you to fund your own trip. The costs are typically all-inclusive, but do expect to pay a deposit to secure and confirm your spot. Do not let the costs discourage you from pursuing an opportunity because there are many funding options available (see additional resources below).
- International Healthcare Volunteers: This organization travels to parts of West Africa and Jamaica to focus on the health of women and children. The trips are two weeks long. Click here to read more.
- International Medical Relief: This organization travels to countries in Africa, Europe, and Central and South America. The trips last roughly 10 days and address a variety of medical needs. The organization also helps volunteers find funding support for their trips. Click here to read more.
- International Service Learning: This organization travels to Central and South America, Africa, Mexico and the Caribbean with a multi-disciplinary approach based on the health needs of a country. The trips last anywhere from seven to 15 days with extended stay options. Click here to read more.
The American Medical Association, American Association of Family Physicians and Academy of American Medical Colleges all have lists of international volunteer opportunities on their websites. Additionally, organizations such as Volunteer Forever, Good Samaritan Missions and Rotary International can assist you with travel funding.
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