Medical mission trips for pre-med students are popular, but are they worth it? After all, you’re traveling to a country you’ve likely never been to, trying to help people you don’t know who often speak a different language and may not respond well to a foreigner trying to help them.
Yet there are also benefits. You gain medical experience in a different country, helping individuals who might not otherwise receive medical care.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of medical mission trips. We hope this blog helps you determine whether medical mission trips for college students are right for you individually. And keep reading until the end if you’ve ever searched for “medical schools near me.” We have information you won’t want to miss!
Pros – Benefits of Medical Mission Trips:
- Medical mission trips get you out of your comfort zone. Generally speaking, medicine will get you outside your comfort zone. You’ll work with people you might not otherwise work with and deal with medical situations you might not imagine encountering.
This is even more true in a foreign country, where you’ll be exposed to diseases and illnesses that aren’t native to you. Of course, you’ll receive immunizations to protect yourself from foreign illnesses. You’ll also be communicating differently, especially since a different language will likely be spoken. You might have to communicate through a translator, and you’ll hear foreign words you don’t understand.
- Medical mission trips can be character-building. A medical mission trip is primarily about serving the medical needs of a community far from home. Medical mission trips are often planned and scheduled for communities that don’t have access to good healthcare. Serving the members of these communities often produces feelings of sympathy, causing you to respond with compassion and selflessness, which will build your character.
- Medical mission trips provide clinical experience. There’s no substitute for real-world experience, and medical mission trips for pre-med students provide you with exactly that. You’ll have opportunities to practice medicine at a basic level, such as taking vitals or writing down the patient’s history. These are opportunities you wouldn’t get until later on in your pre-med journey, making medical mission trips more than worth it for many pre-med students.
- Medical mission trips can help you form lasting friendships. It’s a new experience traveling all over the world to provide medical care to those who need it. Because you’re in a new environment serving people with vastly different backgrounds from your own, you’ll be more inclined to connect and interact with other members of your medical mission team. It’s not uncommon to form life-long friendships as you serve others together.
- Medical mission trips can nail down your desire to become a doctor. If you’ve been questioning whether medicine is the right career path for you, there’s no better way to find out than by going on a medical mission trip. You’ll either realize how much you want to become a doctor or that it isn’t the right path for you. Immersing yourself in caring for others is the best way to understand yourself.
- Medical mission trips allow you to travel. Some of us really enjoy traveling, and going on a medical mission trip will provide that experience. Oftentimes, the program fees you must pay to go on the trip are less expensive than they would be for you to plan a trip to go abroad, whether it would be for a medical mission trip or another reason. If you’ve been looking for the opportunity to travel and you think you want to practice medicine, a medical mission trip might be exactly what you’ve been needing.
- Medical mission trips can be fun. Not only will you gain valuable experience on your medical mission trip, but you’ll have the opportunity to have fun. Many medical mission trips include activities to help you bond with other members of the team and give you free time when you’re allowed to do whatever you’d like. While hard work is definitely part of the experience, it’s not all work.
Cons – Risks of Medical Mission Trips:
- Natives can become dependent on foreign aid. Communities that don’t have accessible healthcare will be grateful for medical missionaries who provide the healthcare they might not otherwise receive. However, the knowledge that you’re coming might cause the local natives to rely on medical missionaries instead of developing healthcare resources that would eliminate their need for medical missionaries to come to them. This isn’t an issue everywhere, but it is in some places and is something to be aware of if medical missions are on your heart.
- Communities who receive medical missionaries are very grateful for the service they receive. Because they are so thankful, it’s easy to develop a savior complex, where you feel the need to constantly take care of others and neglect yourself in the process. You’re only there for a short time, so you want to provide as much care as possible. But you still need to take care of yourself.
- There are ethical issues to consider. Strict laws dictate what pre-med students are and aren’t allowed to do, but those lines are blurred when you leave the United States and travel to a third-world country with limited medical care. You’ll have more opportunities to participate in medical care than you would in a clinic in California. However, this could be considered an ethical issue with a pre-med student providing more medical care than they are qualified to give. This could also cause issues if a native gets injured or becomes ill because of the care provided by a student without enough experience. This situation can be altogether avoided by going on a medical mission trip where pre-med students are only allowed to provide the same care as they would in the United States.
- Medical mission trips are expensive. While medical missions can cost a lot less than some other trips, they are still expensive and require saving up a lot of money to be able to go, which is something not everyone can do.
- Medical mission trips take you away from home, where care may be needed. As much as foreign countries need help with their medical care, there is plenty of need close to home. Many universities have programs specifically designed for students who will practice medicine in the area, with a specific emphasis on underserved communities. Going abroad means that less doctors are available for local needs, causing the underserved to travel farther and pay more for the medical care they need. You might decide that it’s still worth it to go on a medical mission, but this is worth considering.
- Incorrect diagnoses are higher. Doctors use a lot of technology to provide diagnoses for their patients. In many cases, it’s not possible to travel with all that technology due to lack of room or financial restraints. While doctors can diagnose some illnesses without the aid of blood work, CT scans, and other diagnostic imaging, there is a higher chance of misdiagnosis. This can result in prolonged health issues or an underlying issue not being treated. This could still be better than not receiving medical care at all, but it is an issue to consider.
- Medical tourism isn’t as high quality as local medical care. This is a Catch-22 since you’ll be providing care the natives might not otherwise receive but at a lower quality. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons and determine if it’s a good idea to go.
Go on a Pre-Med Shadowing Study Abroad Program With International Medical Aid
As you can see, there are pros and cons to medical mission trips for pre-med students. You’ll have once-in-a-lifetime experiences but not without risks.
But what if we told you there’s an option in between staying close to home and going on a medical mission trip for college students? That’s right. International Medical Aid provides a pre-med shadowing study abroad program where you get to travel to countries all over the world and shadow medical professionals as they provide medical care to underserved communities that wouldn’t otherwise get medical attention.
There are no ethical issues because you won’t provide a level of care beyond what you’re qualified to give. Instead, your focus will be on getting to know patients, paying close attention to how the nurses and doctors treat the local natives, and gaining a world of experience with your fellow pre-med students. Our programs integrate shadowing, community service, didactic experiences, and more, providing you with an amazing experience you won’t get anywhere else.
International Medical Aid provides this opportunity on a regular basis. We also provide medical school admissions consulting. We can help you through any stage of your medical school journey, from writing your personal statement to reviewing your application prior to submitting it to conducting mock interviews that will prepare you to meet with admissions committees. With medical school admissions experts ready to help you, our medical school admissions consulting allows you to take your application to the next level.
Have you ever searched for “medical schools near me”? On our blog, we provide comprehensive guides to medical schools all across the United States. No matter where you are, you’re sure to find a school near you!
Continue forward on your medical school journey with International Medical Aid!