Medical electives in the UK for students from low income countries
A global exchange or a one-way street?
“Welcome to the smiling coast of Africa!” is a friendly greeting, familiar to visitors to the Gambia. UK medical students visiting Gambian hospitals on their electives can expect a similarly warm welcome, minimum administrative hassle, and costs that are little more than the price of a flight and some sunscreen. Hundreds of UK students each year benefit from electives in low income countries, gaining a valuable perspective on the challenges of medicine in a resource limited setting. Many UK medical schools actively encourage such electives, and the phrase “global exchange” is often used. But is it an equal exchange?
For Gambian students, an elective placement in the United Kingdom offers the opportunity to see a developed healthcare system with diagnostic equipment and treatments that they have never seen in practice. The elective offers the opportunity to explore specialties such as neurosurgery and cardiology not represented in the Gambia. The knowledge