The Ethics of Short-Term International Health Electives in Developing Countries

  • Lani K. Ackerman
General Issue


With increased globalization, and a desire by educators to develop culturally competent, compassionate physicians, there has been an exponential increase in the number of medical students involved in International Health Electives (IHE). Evaluation of many of these experiences is strongly positive for the students, but there has been virtually no academic assessment of the impact — positive or negative — on the host community. The ethics of affecting locals, frequently a vulnerable population or community utilized for training, as well as the ethics of physical or emotional harm to the students have not been carefully examined. This article details some of the ethical issues that must be considered in establishing or continuing rotations for medical students in developing countries, reviews the data in the current medical literature related to these issues, and ends with recommendations for educators in the ethical development and evaluation of international health electives.


international health electives cultural competence ethics 


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Copyright information

© Association for the Behavioral Sciences and Medical Education 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Scott White ClinicTexas A&M College of MedicineCollege StationUSA

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