Can medical students be prepared for Global Health ethical issues?

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(Harlie Raethel, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Giorgia Soldà, newly graduated doctor from Turin, Italy. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Speaking about medical ethics with students ready to go for an exchange internship in another country which might be very far away both geographically and culturally is not always easy. But having more than 15000 students leaving every year for such an experience makes it a “must” for IFMSA exchanges.

The students will find themselves in completely different cultural settings, with different rules, values and habits. Nonetheless, they need to adapt quite quickly to maintain an effective and fruitful doctor-patient as well as student-doctor relationship.

The impact can be even bigger when the students are used to high standards health care delivery and are then allocated to rural areas of the hosting country where the technologies and treatment options are limited.

Therefore before the departure of students, it is essential to organize training opportunities and tackle these various issues.

After few years developing Pre-Departure and Upon-Arrival Trainings to be delivered respectively by the sending and hosting country organizing committees and so identifying our needs and necessities, IFMSA decided to ask for a collaboration with the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and create a training together.

As a matter of fact, the usage of new technologies is addressed in the above mentioned Pre-Departure training. It is none of a secret, that we are living in the era when connecting people has become as easy as clicking one button or simply touching the screen. And when you take and then share a picture of the patient without their consent then one of the initial rules of Medical Ethics – Confidentiality – is broken.

We know that medical students tend to collect as much information as possible and moreover to share it with their peers and colleagues and of course this kind of behaviour can be even enhanced when they are abroad and want to share and show even more. Living in a time where these kinds of behaviours are perceived as “normal” and with no consequences, it is important for the students to understand that if they act this way in a hospital contest they are jeopardizing their professional moral and ethical values.

That’s why this topic is explicitly addressed in the before mentioned training which is based on theory and case studies. Medical students before going on exchanges are supposed to go through these topics together with their peer-trainers, to discuss and to understand  that the only right solution in this case is to be very careful with whatever they see and hear and use their phones only with informative consent of the patient and the doctor or to not use them at all.

To conclude, in order to answer the question “How can medical students be prepared for the Ethical dilemmas in nowadays World?” we can definitely claim, that Global Health Exchanges faced with adequate preparation could be one of the ways to prepare students to think and make informative ethical decisions on their own. It is better one time to see than one hundred times to hear and we cannot agree more.

About the author

Giorgia Soldà, newly graduated doctor from Turin, Italy. She considers herself a “citizen of the world” and she has been part of IFMSA since 2013, working for the Professional Exchange standing committee. She is passionate about intercultural learning, cross-cultural communication and global health. Loves traveling and learning about other cultures and ways of thinking. She dreams about working in the global health field to contribute to the development of better health standards for all the people in the world.

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