Incoming resident interest in global health: occasional travel versus a future career abroad?

J Grad Med Educ. 2011 Sep;3(3):400-3. doi: 10.4300/JGME-D-10-00168.1.


Background: While there is growing interest among residents in participating in international health experiences, it is unclear whether this interest will translate into intentions to pursue a global health career. We aimed to describe overall interest in and career intentions toward global health among interns.

Methods: We administered an anonymous survey to incoming interns in all specializations during graduate medical education orientation at 3 teaching hospitals affiliated with 2 Midwestern US medical schools in June 2009. Survey domains included demographics, previous global health experiences, interest in and barriers to participating in global health experiences during residency, and plans to pursue a future global health career.

Results: Response rate was 87% (299 of 345 residents). The most commonly reported barriers to participating in global health experiences were scheduling (82%) and financial (80%) concerns. Two-thirds of interns (65%) reported they were likely to focus on global health in their future career. Of those envisioning a global health career, 77% of interns reported interest in participating in short, occasional trips in the future; and 23% of interns intended to pursue a part-time or full-time career abroad. Interns committed to a career abroad were more willing to use vacation time (73% vs. 40% of all others, respectively; P < .001) or to personally finance the trip (58% vs. 27% of all others, respectively; P = < .001), and were less concerned about personal safety than interns not committed (9% vs. 26% of all others, respectively; P = .01).

Conclusions: Although a large proportion of incoming interns report interest in global health careers, few are committed to a global health career. Medical educators could acknowledge career plans in global health when developing global health curricula.