Mental Health Internships
International Medical Aid (IMA) is a not-for-profit organization founded at Johns Hopkins University that facilitates mental health internships and volunteer programs for undergraduates, graduate students, and licensed practitioners in the areas that need it the most: East Africa, South America, and the Caribbean. In providing urgently needed health care assistance to the people in these regions, we help participants gain valuable exposure to a variety of specialties in our psychology and mental health internships and study abroad programs. All of our programs also allow interns and volunteers the opportunity to immerse themselves in the beauty and culture of our destinations through unique adventure programs led by experienced and trusted tour guides. Founded on the principles of integrity, respect, commitment, and imagination, IMA provides a safe and mutually beneficial experience where students can make a meaningful contribution to disadvantaged populations throughout the world.
International Medical Aid (IMA) offers once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for psychologists, psychotherapists, social workers, and college students to work in busy international mental health care settings, mentored by our outstanding staff of dedicated counselors, psychiatrists, and other healthcare professionals. We collaborate with an extensive network of public and private health facilities so our interns and volunteers can utilize their skills to improve the health of the communities they work in while furthering their practical experience. Access to mental health services in the developing world is limited and is why IMA strives to improve the health of underserved individuals through community medical clinics and public health education programs. In these areas, cultural stigma prevents many mentally ill individuals from attempting to seek counseling, which is why we work hard to collaborate with local leaders to develop ethical and sustainable community-led initiatives that address the root causes of mental health illness.
IMA is a not-for-profit organization that reinvests into all of the communities in which we operate. While some programs merely transport participants to their hospital placements and offer little oversight or guidance, we provide a structured environment with multiple sources of local and U.S.-based support. In addition, IMA oversees every aspect of our interns’ overseas experience, including extensive training on safety and infection control procedures.
24/7 U.S. and Local Country Support
IMA recognizes the importance of a strong support network in a foreign country thousands of miles from home. We provide a single U.S. point of contact for families at home, while onsite, each intern is matched with a program coordinator and a mentor. The coordinator typically lives in the Program Residence and is responsible for smooth day-to-day operations, while the mentor works with interns in a professional capacity.
Graduate School Admissions Support
International Medical Aid has a network of experienced graduate school admissions experts including physician educators and former members of graduate school admissions committees. Participants who successfully complete our healthcare internship and study abroad programs will have access to personal graduate school admissions counseling including letters of recommendation, personal statement review, and interview coaching at no additional cost. Many of our past alumni have leveraged the guidance of our professional consultants to successfully enter top American and European graduate programs in psychiatry, psychology, counseling, and behavioral health.
Orientation and Training
IMA ensures that its interns are fully informed and prepared before beginning their overseas experience. As such, we offer two types of orientation programs: one led by a program coordinator regarding the local area, and the other geared toward the work environment, including hospital operations, safety protocols, sanitation requirements, and specific terminology.
Gated Housing with 24/7 Security
IMA’s top concern is keeping our interns safe during their stay. As such, we thoroughly vet all properties we purchase or lease to ensure that they are in the towns’ safest areas, typically with easy access to major roads, U.S. embassies, and work assignments. We offer interns modern dormitory-style accommodations with air conditioning, maid service, and laundry service. Our full-time security team is available to help with off-site trip planning and escorts.
Travel, Accident and Health Insurance
International Medical Aid provides each intern with $1,000,000 of top-rated travel insurance that will cover most medical and dental expenses, medical evacuation, lost luggage costs, and trip interruption coverage. This insurance is underwritten by Sirius International which holds an “A” rating by A.M. Best. A Sample Policy may be viewed on the carrier’s website. This insurance is among the strongest and most comprehensive coverage offered by any student travel organization in the United States.
Placement Related Transportation
IMA provides interns with shared, daily roundtrip transportation to placement sites in addition to arrival/departure airport transfers. Safe, reliable transportation is also available for leisure and personal trips at reasonable rates to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all interns.
IMA employs chefs from nearby resorts to prepare nutritious local cuisine that interns will find both healthy and delicious. We also offer the comforts of home cooking through occasional American fare. We provide three full meals a day and can accommodate special nutritional needs.
Required fees to utilize hospital facilities – often additional with other companies – are all included in the program fee. Our contracts also provide participants with priority access to specific areas of the hospital in which they have an interest in practicing.
We offer unlimited Wi-Fi access from the Program Residences and local cell phones for use during the program.
Following the conclusion of each placement, interns will be asked to discuss their experiences with the program’s U.S.-based staff. This feedback on likes dislikes, and suggestions are used as a basis for further improvements to the program.
Graduate and Undergraduate Students Pursuing Fields Related to Mental Health, Social Workers, Psychologists, Psychotherapists, Licensed Counselors, Psychiatrists
- Adolescent Counseling
- Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment (AODA)
- Pediatric Counseling
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
- Crisis Counseling
- Family Counseling/Therapy
- Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD)
- Sexual Abuse Treatment
- Women’s Issues/Women’s Abuse
IMA Adventure Consulting
IMA offers interns the chance to enhance their overseas study abroad experience by participating in a planned adventure retreat in their chosen country. IMA Safaris allows interns to explore and immerse themselves in the beauty and culture of our unique destinations. Through established relationships with trusted guides, hotels, and travel organizations across the world, IMA simplifies travel arrangements for interns, while providing relatives back home a single point of contact for added peace of mind. Some of the places visited throughout Africa, South America and the Caribbean include world-renowned sites such as the Masai Mara Game Reserve, Mount Kilimanjaro, Victoria Falls, the Galápagos Islands, Machu Picchu, and the Serengeti National Park.
How is IMA different from other internship or study abroad programs?
Our study abroad and internship programs uniquely combine intensive clinical shadowing, service learning, didactic experiences, and expert admissions support to help you advance your career in healthcare. With IMA, you have designated mentors and support available 24 hours a day, looking after your needs. In addition, you are provided a structured lecture schedule, hospital rounds, community outreach, and clinical work. Your transportation is taken care of by our private drivers, and your personal safety is our priority at all times.
What are the requirements to participate in an IMA program?
Our programs are aimed towards students who are in or striving to be in the healthcare field. This includes pre-health undergraduate students pursuing degrees in mental health-related disciplines well as medical, nursing, dental, and physician assistant students. A majority of our preclinical programs are based in East Africa. All of our programs in South America are reserved for students who are in at least their third year of medical school and who have an advanced level of fluency in Spanish. While there are no other formal requirements, successful applicants are able to articulate their motivations for completing an internship and have completed similar volunteer/shadowing work in their home country.
How does an IMA internship abroad help me get into graduate school?
Graduate schools like to see that their candidates have gone the extra mile towards learning as much as possible about the field of mental health and psychology. This is proven to them through volunteer work, working in the healthcare field before they pursue a graduate degree in mental health or the pursuit of opportunities that allow them to learn more about the field of psychology and mental health. An IMA internship allows shadowing medical professionals in both the best and worst of environments. It helps you gain resourcefulness and a true realization of the importance of mental healthcare throughout the world.
Are there any residency or citizenship requirements?
While we are a U.S.-based organization, we work with interns and volunteers from around the world and do not have any citizenship or residency requirements.
When can I go?
Our programs operate year-round and internship positions often fill up months in advance. You may view current Program Dates and Fees on our website.
How long should I go?
Most students participate in our programs for four to six weeks. We recommend that students complete programs that are at least two weeks long. Students seeking to gain exposure in several departments and/or specialties should consider spending at least four weeks in-country.
Where does my money go?
International Medical Aid is a not-for-profit organization based in the United States. Your Program Fee is used to cover costs associated with your placement including arranging housing, transportation, food, mentor salaries, hospital fees, and administrative costs. The remaining revenue is used to fund IMA’s Global Humanitarian Initiatives. This unique model allows us to continue providing vital medical aid to targeted communities in a sustainable way without reliance on outside donors.
What will I be allowed to do in the hospital?
International Medical Aid strictly adheres to the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Guidelines for Premedical and Medical Students Providing Patient Care During Clinical Experiences Abroad. We recommend that all prospective applicants review this information before applying. In succinct terms, our participants will not be allowed to do anything in our programs abroad that they would not be permitted to do in the United States or Europe. Our Pre-Medical/Pre-Health students will be strictly observing patient care and will have the opportunity to shadow the management of complex diseases that are not often found in the United States. Participants will gain experiential exposure to the differing healthcare delivery models found around the world, and will often be involved in IMA’s community medical clinics and humanitarian outreach programs. Additionally, our local physician mentors regularly conduct seminars on region-specific topics in global medicine.
Do you provide accident and medical evacuation insurance for interns?
In the case of an accident or a life-threatening illness, it is important for interns to have proper insurance coverage. A medical evacuation from a developing country could cost upwards of $100,000. IMA provides each of our interns’ comprehensive accident and medical evacuation insurance at no additional cost. Please note that this coverage is extended as a courtesy to our interns and we still recommend that all students carry comprehensive health insurance, professional liability insurance (if needed), and trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage.
What does a typical work day look like for program participants?
Interns will typically spend 6-8 hours in the hospital and have downtime in the afternoons for activities and local excursions. Interns are welcome to participate in one night shift per week as well. Weekends are free for excursions or treks; alternatively, you are welcome to work in the hospital on the weekends. Once admitted, you will work closely with your Program Mentor to develop your program schedule. You may view a Sample Program Schedule on our website.
What kind of patient interaction can I expect if I am limited to shadowing?
Your patient interaction will be limited by the medical personnel you are shadowing and how much training and experience you have. You will neither be asked nor expected to do anything you have not been trained to do prior to your experience abroad. Everyone comes into this journey with different training. Your peers might be able to do more because they have the experience and training to do so. For example, if you have not been trained to draw blood, you will not be asked or expected to do so whereas one of your peers might work as a phlebotomist and will be asked and expected to help with blood draws regularly. There are some volunteer opportunities while on your journey that can provide you with more interaction, like teaching children how to brush their teeth or improve their hygiene. Everyone’s experience differs.
How can I get the most out of my shadowing experience?
The best way to get everything you can out of your shadowing experience is to ask a lot of questions and to keep a journal. Asking questions can serve more than one purpose: it can get you answers and it can help you bond with the doctor who you are shadowing. Any relationships you can cultivate with members of the healthcare profession can serve you well later, as these are the same people who will be writing you letters of recommendation for medical school. The journal you keep can remind you of the details of your observations during your volunteer internship.
What kind of challenges might I encounter that don't happen in hospitals and clinics at home?
The greatest challenge you may encounter would be a lack of supplies or equipment for diagnostics. This is where you will see medical care at its most basic. This is where a lot of our interns discover the most rewarding experiences. Seeing how doctors operate in the most drastic conditions can be the most rewarding of experiences.
What types of educational experiences can I expect beyond shadowing?
As part of the program, you will be attending lectures and simulations throughout your rotations in the morning hours and participating in medical and hygiene clinics during the afternoons.
What is the structure of your programs? Will there be in-country support? Will my family back home have a single point of contact in case of emergencies?
Interning in a foreign country can be a rewarding and life-changing experience but it can also be quite challenging. It is important for interns to assure their chosen organization provides structured experiences with ample local support. For families and loved ones back home, it is equally important that such organizations provide a single-point of contact that can be reached in case of an emergency. IMA’s programs balance structure with ample local guidance and 24-hour, U.S.-based support for interns and their loved ones.
How are flight arrangements handled?
Most interns prefer to book their own flights. However, our team in the United States can assist with your flight bookings at no additional cost. If you would like us to help, please let us know and we will take care of the bookings on your behalf.
What is your post-exposure protocol? Will there be post-exposure prophylaxis kits readily available? Are these kits included in the program fee?
The risk of exposure to infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS is often greater when working in parts of the developing world. Interns must assure that prospective organizations have established protocols in place in the event of exposure. IMA is committed to the safety of our interns and has developed stringent protocols and training programs, which work to minimize the risk of exposure. In the case of exposure, IMA has physicians on-call 24 hours a day to provide timely PEP at no expense to our interns.
What vaccinations will I need for trips to East Africa?
For pre-trip vaccinations and medications for malaria prophylaxis, we recommend that you consult your primary care physician or a travel medicine specialist for detailed information. We also recommend reviewing the CDC Health Information for Travelers to Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. If you or your healthcare provider have any questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.