Mental Health Internships
International Medical Aid (IMA) is a non-profit organization that provides healthcare volunteer programs for undergraduate students, graduate students, residents, and 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 disciplines such as medicine, dentistry, nursing, mental health, public health and physical therapy through an ethics-based approach to care. Our programs also allow volunteers and interns the opportunity to immerse themselves in the beauty and culture of our exotic destinations through unique adventure programs led by experienced and trusted tour guides. Founded at Johns Hopkins University 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 dentists and other healthcare professionals. We collaborate with an extensive network of public and private health facilities so our interns and volunteers are able to 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 mobile hygiene 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.
Unlike many healthcare volunteer programs, 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. IMA oversees every aspect of our volunteers’ overseas experience, including extensive training on safety and infection control procedure.
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 volunteer is matched with a program coordinator and a mentor. The coordinator typically lives in the volunteer residence and is responsible for smooth day-to-day operations, while the mentor works with volunteers in a professional capacity.
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.
Orientation and Training
IMA ensures that its volunteers 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 volunteers 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 volunteers 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.
Placement Related Transportation
IMA provides volunteers 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 volunteers.
IMA employs chefs from nearby resorts to prepare nutritious local cuisine that volunteers 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 volunteer residences and local cell phones for use during the program.
Following the conclusion of each placement, volunteers will be asked to discuss their experiences with the program’s U.S.-based staff. This feedback on likes, dislikes, and suggestions is used as a basis for further improvements to the program.
Graduate and Undergraduate Students Pursuing Fields Related to Mental Health, Social Workers, Psychologists, Psychotherapists
- Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment (AODA)
- Pediatric Counseling
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
- Family Counseling/Therapy
- Medical-Surgical Nursing
- Family Counseling/Therapy
- Medical-Surgical Nursing
- Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD)
- Sexual Abuse Treatment
- Women’s Issues/Women’s Abuse
IMA Adventure Consulting
IMA offers volunteers the chance to enhance their overseas experience by participating in a planned adventure retreat in their chosen country. IMA Safaris allows volunteers 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 volunteers, 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 Serengeti National Park, Mount Kilimanjaro, Victoria Falls, the Galápagos Islands, Machu Picchu, and the Haitian National History Park.
Frequently Asked Questions
Our programs are aimed towards students who are in or striving to be in the healthcare field. This includes pre-health students as well as medical, nursing, dental, and physician assistant students. 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 a volunteer placement and have completed similar volunteer/shadowing work in their home country.
While we are an American based organization, we work with volunteers from around the world and do not have any citizenship or residency requirements.
IMA’s large network of hospitals and dedicated staff allows us to tailor elective and volunteer placement programs for our participants. All of our programs operate from May to September and space for these programs often fill up months in advance.
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.
Volunteering in a foreign country can be a rewarding and life-changing experience but it can also be quite challenging. It is important for volunteers 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 volunteers and their loved ones.
IMA’s Program Fees are inclusive of all in-country expenses; including accommodations, chef-prepared meals, placement related transportation, hospital fees, accident insurance, and unlimited wifi access; allowing volunteers to more confidently travel abroad and enjoy their experience.
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 mobile medical clinics and humanitarian outreach programs. Additionally, our local physician mentors regularly conduct seminars on region specific topics in global medicine.
Volunteers will typically spend 6-8 hours in the hospital and have down time in the afternoons for activities and local excursions. Volunteers 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 programs schedule by clicking here.
Generally, volunteers 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.
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.
The risk of exposure to infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS is often greater when working in parts of the developing world. Volunteers must assure that prospective organizations have established protocols in place in the event of exposure. IMA is committed to the safety of our volunteers 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 volunteers.
As for the 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 Traveler’s to Kenya. If you or your doctor have any questions once you have examined this document, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the case of an accident or a life-threatening illness, it is important for volunteers to have proper insurance coverage. A medical evacuation from a developing country could cost upwards of $100,000. IMA provides each of our volunteers basic accident and medical evacuation insurance at no additional cost. Please note that this coverage is extended as a courtesy to our volunteers and we still recommend that all students carry comprehensive health insurance, professional liability insurance (if needed) and trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage.
- Immersive Hospital Shadowing
- Ethical, Not-For-Profit Program Model
- 24/7 Support from Expert Physician Mentors
- Access to All Specialty Departments
- Travel & Accident Insurance
- Global Health Education Programs
- Recognized Credential
- Graduate School Admissions Support
“If you are you looking for a radically different yet incredible experience next summer, stop looking. This is it. Granted that this was my first time in Africa. And the first time I volunteered as a doctor. So the experience would have probably been a memorable one either way. That said, it was not just memorable, it was simply life-changing. IMA gave me a unique opportunity to both work as a doctor, and learn as a student. There was obviously some ramping-up to do, but it was just a matter of days until I started getting hands-on experience, working with dedicated mentors, and really wonderful colleagues. The organization was also great in helping me to explore, learn and live the city and culture of Mombasa. Locals are incredibly welcoming, and while you might think safety is an issue, the in-country support was just exceptional at making sure we did not take any unnecessary risks. And don’t get me wrong. I did take risks. But they involved holding snakes with my own hands, driving by lions at Maasai Mara, and skydiving over the Mombasa valleys. And I can tell you those risks were totally worth taking. The worst part is that all of this happened while staying and living at genuinely one of the most wonderful dorms in the city, with great people taking care of you, and delicious food waiting on the table. Hope this does not sound too good to be true, but I really could not speak any better of my time in Kenya, with IMA. It has been an incredibly enriching experience, and one I will never forget.”
-Felipe De Sande Palma, Universidad de Granada
“As a medical school applicant, this experience was worthwhile. As a volunteer at Mt. Meru Regional Hospital in Arusha, Tanzania, I got a chance to further my medical knowledge all while making a lasting impact within the local community. The doctors were so welcoming and went out of their way to explain unique clinical cases in depth. Following my volunteer experience, I can truly say I have a greater appreciation for medicine. The IMA staff were really friendly and ensured everything I needed was taken care of. I have done multiple volunteer trips in East Africa and I can say without hesitation that IMA is top tier when it comes to providing students a seamless experience. In the future, I would strongly consider doing an elective with IMA again.”
-Soham Savani, Georgetown University
“I was introduced to IMA through a coworker who had gone on previous trips to Haiti with them. My family had many questions and concerns about safety which I was able to get answered for them prior to me departing. My first was very eye opening as to how people live in a third world country. We were well prepared for little food being available and no electricity most of the time. This is from the planning done by IMA. I felt the entire time that I was safe and well taken care of. I we were getting low on water Homayon made sure we received more. We have worked with great translators and been made to feel very welcome. This trip was hard for me at times as I had a mother bring me a deceased child looking for help. Homayon saw the emotional impact this took on me even though I didn’t want to admit it. He stepped in and took my place so I could step back and gather myself. I didn’t have to even say anything and he was able to see this. After my first trip I felt we had changed the lives of many. We saved so many that year just by being able to educate, give medications, and IV fluids. I knew I would go back the following year after the impact this year had made on me. After the trip Homayon encouraged us to give positive as well as negative feedback as to how to make the trip better. I felt like the organization did listen as I prepared for my second mission trip to Haiti.
-Tiffany Collins, Registered Nurse, Samaritan Memorial Hospital
“I was introduced to IMA and Homayon through his father, who worked at the same facility that I did. Upon returning from a mission trip to Haiti, I had the feeling that there was so much more that could be done. Upon “meeting” Homayon, he worked hard to try to make this first trip happen. He followed through on contacts that I had made, and our first trip with IMA was born. I was impressed with the way that Homayon interacted with other members of the team. Being on my first medical mission trip, I was really outside my comfort zone. But Homayon reassured, watched for problems, discussed the events of the day, and made us feel like we were an important part of the team…Because of the attentions that were shown by IMA, we were able to see the need in Haiti, and left knowing that we needed to return. And knowing that this return trip would be with IMA made it all the better.”
-Sharon Kennison, Registered Nurse, Samaritan Memorial Hospital