Preparation, Relationship and Reflection: Lessons for International Medical Electives

Stephanie Stone, Jolene Moore, Samuel Tweed*, Amudha Poobalan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


International medical electives (IMEs) provide opportunities for global health education within undergraduate medical curricula; however, ethical and practical preparations vary.

Single-centre, prospective, mixed-methods study, utilising online questionnaires with students and host supervisors, contemporaneous reflective diaries and focus groups, to explore the preparedness and experiences of final-year UK medical students undertaking IMEs.

Students experienced communication challenges and felt underprepared prior to IME. Students undervalued cultural preparation, whereas host supervisors primarily desired humility and cultural sensitivity. Visitors to high-income countries underpredicted cultural differences with reflective practice supporting understanding of global health inequalities. Burden on hosts and ethical dilemmas related to acting beyond competence remained significant concerns.

International medical electives provide experiential learning, and with authentic reflection facilitate professional development. Enhanced culturally competent preparation and debriefing is however essential for collaborative and responsible student learning. Acting beyond competency persists, requiring concerted reform during the pandemic-mandated hiatus of IMEs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-99
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
Issue number2
Early online date17 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

The authors kindly acknowledge the keen participation of medical students in this study, as well as faculty members who supported the study including Elaine Lyall, Wendy Watson, Morag Simpson and Donald Thomas.
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


  • international medical electives
  • global health education
  • medical ethics
  • professional development
  • reflective practice


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