Global health in Canadian medical education: current practices and opportunities

Acad Med. 2008 Feb;83(2):192-8. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31816095cd.


Purpose: Globalization is altering health and health care. At the same time, prospective and current medical students are increasingly requesting global health training and creating opportunities when these are not provided by medical schools. To understand the type and amount of global health activities provided in Canadian medical schools, the authors undertook a survey of global health educational opportunities available at all 17 medical schools during the 2005-2006 academic year.

Method: Using a structured questionnaire, information was collected from deans' offices, institutional representatives, faculty, students, and medical school Web sites.

Results: All 17 medical schools participated. Canadian medical schools vary widely in their approach to global health education, ranging from neither required nor elective courses in global health to well-developed, two-year electives that include didactic and overseas training. There is no consensus on the educational content covered, the year in which global health issues are taught, whether materials should be elective or required, or how much training is needed. Of the 16 Canadian medical schools that allow students to participate in international electives, 44% allow these electives to occur without clear faculty oversight or input.

Conclusions: Despite both the strong, growing demand from medical students and the changing societal forces that call for better global health training, Canadian medical school curricula are not well positioned to address these needs. Improving global health opportunities in Canadian medical school curricula will likely require national leadership from governing academic bodies.

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Clinical Clerkship
  • Curriculum
  • Data Collection
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / trends*
  • Global Health*
  • Humans
  • Schools, Medical / trends*