, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 71-78
Date: 15 Jul 2011

Global Health Needs and the Short-Term Medical Volunteer: Ethical Considerations

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Never underestimate the ability of a small group of committed individuals to change the world. Indeed, they are the only ones who ever have—Margaret Mead.

Through many conversations with health professionals throughout the United States on such matters, I have come to a clear realization. Those who write and talk about the dream of global health equity can make people think, but can not make them care. It is only through direct involvement with the poor in the developing world (or here at home) that medical students and others in the medical profession at large will find reasons to care and, ultimately, find ways to change the health of the world’s most vulnerable—Edward O’Neil, Jr., MD (2006a, p. 848).

Many licensed health care professionals from the United States and other developed nations travel each year to resource poor regions as medical volunteers. These trips, sometimes referred to as “medical missions” or “short-term medical missions” (STMMs), vary in scope, goal, professional