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International opportunities in health sciences


By  Elena Sosa Lerín July 18, 2009

Where to start if you want to gain experience in international health...

Canadian Federation of Medical Students
The Clinical Exchange Programme gives students the chance to complete clinical electives abroad for a period of one month. Alternatively, the CFMS offers a Research Exchange Programme (REP), where medical students complete international research electives. Students can choose their country of preference; both programmes usually run in the summer months and are open to most Canadian medical students, with the exception of graduating students.

Cultural Embrace
Cultural Embrace offers both volunteer placements and internship programmes in international health. Placements are tailored to the volunteer's experience and may be in a hospital, medical clinic, community centre, nutrition centre, or classroom (health lectures). Volunteer placements and internships are available across six continents.

Cross Cultural Solutions
Medical volunteer placements are available in Brazil, China, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Peru, South Africa, Tanzania and Thailand. Work varies based on the participant's level of knowledge, experience and language abilities.

Projects Abroad
Medical experience and observation programmes for students in medicine, physical therapy, nursing and midwifery, dentistry, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Programmes operate in Argentina, Bolivia, Cambodia, China, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Mexico, Moldava, Mongolia, Nepal, Peru, Senegal and Sri Lanka. Projects Abroad also offers medical electives and can help provide you with a placement that meets your elective requirements.

Volunteer Abroad
Offers health and medical placements in seven countries. This organization is able to accommodate volunteers with little or no medical training. Placements are in rural clinics or urban hospitals. Volunteers are also required for placements teaching first aid, basic health and nutrition, and HIV/AIDS awareness and education.

Where to start if you already have experience...


Canadian Public Health Association
Organizes public health and immunization projects in Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America. Programmes include reproductive and family health, HIV/AIDS prevention, and improving immunization practices in developing countries.

Canadian Red Cross
The Red Cross sends its personnel around to world to work in both disaster relief and on development projects. Professional accreditation and the ability to leave on short notice is a must. Applicants should be committed to several year-long stints abroad.

Canadian Nurses Association
Provides assistance and information to registered nurses who want to volunteer or work abroad. Has established partnerships with nursing associations in developing countries and provides resources to potential volunteers.

Doctors Without Borders / Medecins Sans Frontieres
MSF recruits medical and non-medical volunteers as well as experienced coordinators. For all medical volunteers, experience with tropical medicine, public health, and/or epidemology is a strong asset. MSF recruits physicians, nurses and nurse practitioners, midwives, mental health specialists, laboratory specialists, surgeons, anaesthesiologists, and dieticians/nutritionists.

Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps (RAM)
Medical teams travel to remote areas in the United States and abroad to provide healthcare, dental and eye care among other services. RAM is most in need of physicians: specifically dentists, ophthalmologists and optometrists. If you're a student, you must be sponsored and supervised by your educational institution.

Orbis Canada
Works to prevent and treat blindness in developing countries. Opportunities for ophthalmologists, orthoptists, biomedical engineers, anaesthetists and ophthalmic nurses. Requires four years experience post-graduation, as well as references.

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