Global Health Electives and Experiences

Learn about global health issues and help build health equity among populations in vulnerable settings.

Are you an Undergraduate Medical Education (UME) or Postgraduate Medical Education (PGME) student looking to take part in a global health elective? We’re looking for students who want to learn about global health and apply their skills in real-world settings.

Global Health is the area of study, research, & practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide. As such, a global health experience is not the same as an international health experience.  The fundamental aspect of a global health elective is that it involves working in an underserved or resource-constrained population. This experience can occur within or outside of our Canadian borders.

An elective experience in an underserved or resource-constrained population, even for a relatively short time, can be an enriching educational experience for students. Exposure to different cultures, health/illness beliefs, health care delivery systems and types of health problems are important in the overall educational experience for future health care providers.

A global health experience provides students with a unique opportunity to see how the social determinants of health play a key role in patient health and health seeking behaviours. Students have the opportunity to see health and illness in a broader perspective and context. It gives students the opportunity to see health issues in our own society from a different, deeper, and broader perspective.

Guiding Principles for Global Health Electives & Experiences:

  • The guiding principles for global health experiences at the University of Calgary include:
  • Safe environment for students
  • Educational value for students with clearly identified learning objectives
  • Pre-departure training and post-trip debriefing with students
  • Preceptors in place who understand and agree with the student's learning objectives
  • Socially responsible and mutually beneficial relationships with host preceptors and partnering institutions based upon a relationship or partnership model
  • Regular feedback to and from partnering institutions concerning the UofC student global health electives
  • Ongoing assessment and evaluation of global health electives
  • Ethical and professional conduct by students and faculty during these experiences

Undergraduate Medical Education

The opportunities for local global health electives are vast and can be pursued as a pre-clerkship exploration or anytime during clerkship. The opportunities for international global health electives are more limited because they require a 4-week elective block. For an international elective, you need ample time on-site to develop understanding and relationship with students and faculty at the host institution. You are encouraged to consider a four-week elective at one of our partner institutions. It can be a community / primary care elective or specialty-based.

We try to schedule group international global health electives when it will have minimal impact on your CARMS applications and interviews. The main elective blocks for group international global health electives will be in the four-week March/April elective block. This could be for 4-weeks near the beginning of your clerkship (March/April) or for 4-weeks after CARMS interviews in March/April. We will seek arrange this elective with one of our partner institutions. Depending upon the location or your elective, we may also seek to have a University of Calgary preceptor join you for a portion of the elective.

If you do not do a group elective, you can also arrange an individual 4-week elective during clerkship. But you again are encouraged to consider doing this elective at an institution that has partnership with the Indigenous, Local, and Global Health Office at the Cumming School of Medicine.

  1. Clerkship Global Health Elective

    Types of clerkship global health electives are similar to pre-clerkship electives and can be local or international. If they are local, rural electives can be arranged through Distributed Learning and Rural Initiatives (DLRI) (rmelect@ucalgary.ca) or through the UME clerkship electives coordinator (sumelect@ucalgary.ca). These electives can be general practice or specialty-based.

    If you are interested in an international global health elective, you are encouraged to do a four-week elective in the March/April timeframe. This could be for 4-weeks near the beginning of your clerkship (March/April) or for 4-weeks after CARMS interviews in March/April.

    The Indigenous, Local and Global Health Office will seek to arrange a U of C preceptor or host preceptor with a partnering institution and organize groups of 2-5 students to do the elective together. We will also seek to have you linked with local medical students at the host site.

    Students are also expected to develop learning objectives for their electives using the CanMED’s framework.

  2. Types of Global Health Electives:

    1.  Local

    Rural Electives: Distributed Learning and Rural Initiatives (DLRI)

    Electives around Calgary

    Examples: 

    • Inner city health
    • CUPS
    • The Alex Youth or Seniors Clinic
    • Street CCRED Collaborative
    • Sexual Health Clinic at Sheldon Chumir
    • Indigenous Health
      • Elbow River Healing Lodge
      • To work in First Nation clinic outside Calgary, contact a family physician working at that clinic
    • Refugee & Immigrant Health
      • Refugee Clinic
      • NE Women’s Clinic
      • Addictions Medicine, AHS Opioid Dependency Program

    2. International (Low-Middle Income Country)

    U of C Preceptor-led Group Elective

    • Opportunities vary from year to year. Selection will be based on an application form and an interview may be requested for selection purposes.
    • Potential partner institution opportunities
      • Uganda - Mbarara University of Science and Technology
      • Tanzania - Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences
      • Nepal – Patan Academy of Health Sciences
      • Lao PDR – University of Health Sciences
      • Guyana - University of Guyana

    Individual elective

    • You are encouraged to consider arranging the elective at a partner institution. The Indigenous, Local, and Global Health Office will assist you in helping you find an appropriate placement and help you identify a preceptor.

    Student Directed Elective

    • If you choose to do the elective at an institution that does not have partnership status with the Cumming School of Medicine, you will need to justify your choice. It should be based on a personal relationship that you have with an institution that serves a vulnerable or underserved population. Having a family member living in that location does not equate to having a personal relationship with an institution in that region.

For Local Electives, contact: Rural Electives Coordinator: rmelect@ucalgary.ca or the UME clerkship electives coordinator sumelect@ucalgary.ca.

 

For International Electives, contact: Edna Nikoi, edna.nikoi@ucalgary.ca.

For Clerkship electives:

  • If you are planning a rural elective, funding questions should be directed to DLRI.
  • If you are planning an international global health elective among a vulnerable population in a low-middle income country, you can apply for a travel bursary for up to $2000.  The decision to award a bursary will be made by the UME Global Health Elective Advisory Committee. The travel bursary is disbursed on completion of the field school and meeting post return requirements.  Contact Edna Nikoi (edna.nikoi@ucalgary.ca) for more information.
  • Make sure you have a valid passport. Its’ expiry date must be at least 6 months beyond the date of your expected date of return to Canada. You also need to check the visa requirements for the country where you plan to travel.
  • Draft a letter defining Elective Objectives
  • Obtain a letter of Approval from Host Preceptor (if not U of C group elective)
  • Attend the pre-departure training sessions (all 3 sessions)
  • If you are travelling to a low-middle income country (LMIC), complete and submit the Travel Clinic Counseling Form. If you have travelled to this country in the recent past and have previous documentation that you attended a travel clinic, you can alternatively submit that documentation. Since you are travelling to an LMIC as a student and in a professional capacity, attending a travel clinic is a mandatory requirement.
  • Complete and submit a Global Health High/Extreme Risk Destination Approval Form (High/Extreme risk only)

Visit a medical clinic to obtain all necessary vaccinations and medications medication required for your trip. These can take up to 4 months to complete so be sure to allocate sufficient time.

Speak to a travel insurer to obtain supplemental health, medical and emergency travel insurance.

Attendance at Post Return Debriefing

Elective assignment submitted

Elective evaluation submitted

Boarding Passes submitted (if a travel bursary has been awarded)

Postgraduate Medical Education

If you wish to do a Global Health elective, you can pursue an elective in Canada amongst an underserved or vulnerable population or an international elective.

For a rural elective, you should contact the Distributed Learning and Rural Initiatives (DLRI) office (rmelect@ucalagry.ca). DLRI will arrange placement and provide funding.

If you pursue a global health international elective in a low-middle income country, you should begin the process at least 6 months in advance because you need to have approval from multiple levels including your Residency Program Director, Indigenous, Local and Global Health Office, AHS Medical Education Office, and PGME Office.

The process of elective approval will be navigated through an online approval process. The beginning step is a letter of approval from your Residency Program Director. To begin the approval process, send your Program Director’s letter along with a completed application form to the International Project Coordinator at the Indigenous, Local and Global Health Office (inhealth@ucalgary.ca).

You are encouraged to consider doing an international global health elective at one of our institutional partner sites. To discuss possible locations, please contact inhealth@ucalgary.ca.

To begin the International Global Health Elective approval process, you first need an approval letter from your program director. This letter needs to be sent to the International Project Coordinator at the Indigenous, Local and Global Health Office (inhealth@ucalgary.ca).

You must submit an application form to the International Project Coordinator at the Indigenous, Local and Global Health Office (inhealth@ucalgary.ca). This application form will determine your eligibility for a travel bursary.

You need to define your learning objectives for the elective and these should be shared and agreed upon with your host preceptor. Using the CanMED’s framework is a good means by which to establish your learning objectives.

Obtain a letter of Approval from Host Preceptor. If you are travelling with a U of C preceptor, this preceptor can notify the Indigenous, Local and Global Health Office that you will be working together. If your preceptor is from the host site, you must send documentation that they accept you as a student and agree with your learning objectives.

For an International Global Health Elective, you can apply for a travel bursary for up to $1500. Eligibility for funding includes:

  • 2 week elective with a U of C preceptor at a U of C partner institution
  • 2 week research experience at U of C partner institution
  • 4 week elective with a host or local preceptor at U of C partner institution
  • 4 week elective with an institution that does not have a partnership with the U of C but is in a low-middle income country. Your application must include an explanation as to why this location has been selected to meet your learning objectives as opposed to one of our partner institutions.

A potential exception may be if a student, faculty member, or department has a pre-existing relationship with an institution, but the University of Calgary does not have a Memorandum of Understanding with this institution. This relationship must be explained in the application form and the PGME Global Health Elective Advisory Committee will decide accordingly regarding eligibility for a travel bursary. Having a family member at an institution is not considered adequate criteria.

There is no limitation on the number of times a student can apply for a travel bursary. Nevertheless, this information is requested on our application form and will be taken into consideration given limitations in the number of travel bursaries that can be awarded.  The travel bursary is disbursed on completion of the field school and meeting post-return requirements.

  • Make sure you have a valid passport. Its’ expiry date must be at least 6 months beyond the date of your expected date of return to Canada. You also need to check the visa requirements for the country where you plan to travel.
  • Draft a letter defining Elective Objectives
  • Complete the Personal Health & Travel Safety Training in-person module. Arrangements to do this in-person module at the Indigenous, Local and Global Health Office can be made through the International Partnerships Coordinator (inhealth@ucalgary.ca).
  • Attend a Pre-Departure Training Simulation. These simulations are conducted 3 times per year. You must attend one of these sessions prior to your elective departure. By giving yourself ample lead-time in applying, you will be able to join a simulation training session prior to your departure. The travel bursary is disbursed on completion of the field school and meeting post return requirements.
  • If you are travelling to a low-middle income country (LMIC), complete and submit the Travel Clinic Counseling Form. If you have travelled to this country in the recent past and have previous documentation that you attended a travel clinic, you can alternatively submit that documentation. Since you are travelling to an LMIC as a student and in a professional capacity, attending a travel clinic is a mandatory requirement.
  • Complete and submit a Global Health High/Extreme Risk Destination Approval Form (High/Extreme risk only)

 

Visit a medical clinic to obtain all necessary vaccinations and medications medication required for your trip. These can take up to 4 months to complete so be sure to allocate sufficient time.

Speak to a travel insurer to obtain supplemental health, medical and emergency travel insurance

Attendance at Post Return Debriefing

Elective assignment submitted

Elective evaluation submitted

Boarding Passes submitted (if a travel bursary has been awarded)