An increasing number of aspiring medical school students are developing an interest in global health. But finding opportunities to gain experience in this area can be difficult. As a result, some premedical students decide to…
An increasing number of aspiring medical school students are developing an interest in global health. But finding opportunities to gain experience in this area can be difficult. As a result, some premedical students decide to carve their own path by starting a global health project.
While this may sound challenging, it can be achievable — and if planned correctly, it is an excellent way to develop leadership skills.
If you decide to initiate your own global health project, considering the pointers below can help you get off to a good start.
Identify the problem you want to solve. The first step to setting up a global health project is to hone in on a specific problem you want to solve and devise a solution.
It is not enough to say that you want to work on cardiovascular disease in Africa. You must be very specific. In what particular region of Africa do you want to work? What population do you want to serve? What specific problem relating to cardiovascular disease do you want to address? How do you plan to address the problem, and over what period of time?
If you systematically consider these questions, you will greatly increase your chances of success. You may, for example, decide that you will focus your work on a district in northern Tanzania where a large population of older adults suffer from high blood pressure. You could introduce an education campaign targeted at older adults, encouraging them to get screened for high blood pressure.
The exercise of refining your focus and crafting a solution will help you demonstrate your ability to take initiative, a quality that is highly valued in medical school and by admissions committees.
Form local partners. It is virtually impossible to do work internationally without a local partner who knows the lay of the land, the local culture and the legal requirements. Furthermore, you need to ensure buy-in from locals who believe your cause and agree that it is worthy to pursue.
Without this support, the chances of success will be low. The local partners can also be instrumental in helping you identify the problem you want to solve.
One way to find such partners is to link up with a medical school in the country of interest and collaborate with students at that school. Alternatively, you can try to find individuals in the U.S. who have previously worked in the country of interest and have contacts.
For example, you may find professors at your university who have academic collaborations with universities in the country of interest or who conduct research in the country of interest. They may be able to help you find a local partner.
Another viable approach is to find local nonprofit organizations in the country you wish to work in and pair with them. Working with local partners is great way to connect with people of a different culture and improve your cultural competency. This quality will help tremendously in medical school.
Establish an organization. To gain credibility and garner support for a global health project, it helps to be an organization, not an individual.
You may set up a club on campus or establish a nonprofit and register the organization. Registered U.S. nonprofit organizations are capable of raising funds without having to pay taxes. Donors are generally more inclined to give money to an organization that has nonprofit status.
Alternatively, if setting up your own organizations seems too challenging, you can pair up with an already existing nonprofit organization that works on similar issues as the one you are trying to solve.
There are pros and cons to establishing your own organization versus joining an existing one. If you establish your own organization, you will have more autonomy and fewer restrictions on how you implement your project.
On the other hand, pairing with an existing organization may be more time efficient. Under the right circumstances, you may also find that members of the organization you pair with are willing to serve as mentors and draw on their experiences to support you.
Come up with a fundraising scheme. Implementing any project requires funding. The first step in any fundraising plan is to come up with a budget. This should include a list of steps or resources involved in implementing the project and the cost associated with each.
There are many ways to raise money for your project. One option is to find foundations and apply for a grant. Alternatively, you can plan events around your university campus and sell tickets to raise money.
Social media campaigns are an equally popular way to raise money. You can post your cause on Facebook and use online fundraising platforms like Kickstarter or GoFundMe.
When working on funding, it helps to set realistic expectations. It may be difficult to raise $20,000 in a few short months; therefore, it is a good idea to take on a project that is not too costly. As a start, raising between $2,500 and $5,000 is a great goal.
Remember, medical schools are not concerned about how grand your project was or how much money you raised. Instead they want to see that you devised a project that addresses a real problem and is easy to implement.
While it may seem overwhelming to follow all the steps listed above, with correct planning and sufficient timing, they are achievable. You will grow, develop a unique set of skills, make a difference in the lives of those in need and impress admissions committees when it is time to apply to medical school.