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SUNY Downstate Medical Center

Alumni Association College of Medicine


Health Care in Developing Countries Elective

Since 1980 the Alumni Association has supported 344 students who have participated in the Global Health Elective for Medical Students Health Care in Developing Countries. It is one of the jewels of the Medical Center and is run by the School of Public Health. This year 20 (Class of 2013) students were selected for this overseas elective and were supported by travel grants from the Alumni Fund. The students that participated in this elective visited countries as diverse as the Dominican Republic, India, Kenya, Peru and Thailand.

The following are several quotes from the medical students who participated in this elective:

Anna Cruz



"When I began this elective, I was just an American medical student with the knowledge of the strengths and flaws of the U.S. healthcare system. I had very little knowledge of the Indian sub-continent and was hoping to learn more about how this developing nation deals with healthcare. Through this enriching experience, I have learned so much both inside and outside the hospital and about the people and culture of India. This amazing elective has definitely inspired me, changing the way I view healthcare as a whole. I have gained insight on the many issues in healthcare that plague a developing nation, issues that are completely different than those of developed nation like the U.S., proving that healthcare is a very complicated entity for all nations that poses many problems and many solutions. Therefore, it is of utmost importance, for physicians to keep patient care at the heart of the matter. With all the flaws of any system, it is the duty of the physician to work with these setbacks to try to provide the best care possible to the patient, such as finding an alternative possible treatment that is financially affordable or figuring out ways to provide early diagnosis and intervention. It is this important lesson along with the infinite other important lessons from this clinical elective that has greatly enhanced my medical education and has truly changed me in so many ways, some of which I still will not know until I begin my career as a physician. Most importantly, it will forever affect my practice of medicine as a physician in the future."

Jonathan Gong


Bangalore, India:

"Throughout my six-weeks in India, I was exposed to medical pathologies that I had only seen in the textbooks, but I feel the more important lessons that I learned were the means by which social and cultural standards impacted medical decisions and treatments. While the United States health care system is broken and needs to repaired, the thought of withholding care because a patient cannot pay is difficult and frustrating at the least, but a reality that the Indian patients and physicians manage every day. Conversely, the community health department has made significant strides at reducing the access issues to provide basic primary care, which is an area that must be improved in the United States to reduce the costs of health care. The structure of the Indian healthcare system, much like the United States', is an ever evolving system to address the needs of the population, with the major distinction being the manner in which services are rationed. My experience and exposure to this unique perspective of medicine has been truly invaluable in my training. It is with the social and cultural knowledge of this culture that I am empowered with as I begin my career as a physician."

Amanda Harris


Dominican Republic:

"Being able to spend an extended period of time in another country is always a valuable experience and one that I am very grateful to have had the luxury of time and opportunity to do. I learned a great deal about the way medicine is practiced in the DR, and by extension, in much of the Caribbean. I feel this will be invaluable for my future, as I will have a much better idea of what my patients' lives "back home" are like. So many New Yorkers freely travel back and forth to their homelands so having this knowledge will help me be a better physician to them as they negotiate these two worlds. I also can see so many ways that I can continue to be meaningfully engaged with healthcare delivery in the Dominican Republic and likely in Haiti and other parts of the Caribbean as well."

"Many thanks to the Alumni Fund of the College of Medicine and the LSK Foundation for providing financial support to make my participation in this elective possible."

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