Electives and international health: a student’s view
Are electives really the answer to the international shortage in health workers?
Banerjee’s article in this month’s Student BMJ makes a compelling argument for using medical students to help redress international inequities in human resources for health care.1 Medical students should be aware of the severe shortage in human resources for health for reasons of social justice and because it affects developed and developing countries.234 The reasons for the crisis are complex and tentative international solutions are being sought, not least by the World Health Organization.
Banerjee’s argument is appealing—it uses a process already in place, the medical elective, to provide a sustainable source of help to countries deprived of human resources. But how practical is it?1
Charities such as Médecins Sans Frontières, Merlin, and Voluntary Services Overseas that routinely send doctors abroad require a minimum of two years’ experience as senior house officer and often considerably more.5 They argue that less experienced doctors don’t have the necessary specialist and managerial skills