This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Mr Anton Sundberg. The writer is a first-semester medical student at the Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany. Mr Sundberg is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA).
Systems of any kind are naturally a reflection on the culture and history they are based on. As a result, nuanced schemes have been formed that include factors relevant to its participants and excludes aspect which are not.
Healthcare and education are two aspects that are characteristic to every country in terms of their structure and in what they contain. However, in times of globalisation where we are faced with problems and issues which we can only hope to resolve in an international and joint effort, it is important to understand the systems at work in the area of engagement.
In an effort to tackle global health issues, it has become more and more evident that in order to make a lasting difference, solutions have to be created from the inside, thus slowly building up a framework embedded in the existing healthcare system and to make do with locally available funds and resources. Projected onto the medical field, this can only be achieved if the international physicians and experts that are to work with the local personnel and officials understand the system they are trying to support and improve.
Exchanges while still in medical school offer a splendid way for aspiring doctors to get an insight into the problems and worries that exist in other places. While the western world generally is privileged to have access to resources, knowledge, as well as staff and technology, for many people around the world diarrhoea – easily treatable and preventable – still proves fatal due to a lack of access to medical treatment.
So global health issues are really a matter of making healthcare affordable and accessible in places where it currently is not. Students would be able to see and learn about diseases that don’t necessarily play a role in their own education and open them up to the specific knowledge on how to tackle diseases with limited resources and materials. The countries in question are mostly economically weak or war-torn third world countries, with difficult access to good education as well.
So the other way around, students from places affected by the current global health issues could get a chance to acquire the latest medical knowledge and skills at state-of-the-art institutions.
But most importantly, exchanges can bring these two worlds together and connect students with other students, physicians and faculties around the world at an early stage of their career. A network is created in which developing ideas, reaching out for resources in form of staff or funds and eventually, skilfully embedding the best medical solutions into a system in a way that they will prevail, will be possible.
Global health problems don’t cease to exist after the big first wave getting the world media’s attention has been fended off. The systems that allowed for such developments to happen will have to be improved and pursued. And for that, it is vital for our future physicians to understand the circumstances and realities they will face and to leave the bubble of privileged healthcare.
To actually go abroad and to spend time in places where medical treatment is not self-evident will change every students approach to their future trade. They will be the ones to go out to make a difference together with all the people and fellow students they meet along their educational journey.
About the author
Anton Sundberg, born in Stockholm and raised near Munich, Germany is a 20-year-old first-semester medical student at the Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe University Frankfurt. After finishing high school, he spent one year traveling the world as well as working on a work-and-travel visa in Australia. This is where he discovered his passion for traveling and getting to know new cultures. Especially in South-East-Asia and on the Fiji Islands, he got a first impression of the extreme poverty, social inequality and the lack of infrastructure and healthcare.
Upon returning home from his trip, he completed a 6-month training for paramedic in order to confirm and to further develop his interest in medicine. From June to September this year, he interned at a cardiological clinic in Fortaleza, Brazil where he got a deep insight into a underfunded healthcare system with all its consequences before returning to Germany to begin his studies.