Medsin runs bilateral clinical exchanges between UK medical schools and other medical schools around the world. These are coordinated through the IFMSA, and more specifically through the work of the Standing Committee On Professional Exchange (SCOPE).
SCOPE operates a fully educational and cultural experience that is organised entirely by medical students, with the help of the medical faculties, around the world. Students have the chance to attend a clerkship abroad for 4 weeks in a department of their interest. The hosting country must offer lodging, boarding, the clerkship and sometimes a social program.
Currently Exchanges are only offered in a handful of UK medical schools, but we hope to expand these opportunities to our members in all our branches. Through the model of Exchanges, we hope to promote a sustainable model of experiential global health education that addresses many of the shortcomings of undergraduate medical electives. Read on below to find out more about how Exchanges are run, and how you can get involved!
If you’re interested in setting up Medsin Exchanges in your Medsin Branch, click here.
What are Medsin Exchanges?
Exchanges are opportunities for medical students to undertake clinical placements in countries other than their own, to experience healthcare delivery in different settings and cultures.
Medsin Exchanges were introduced into the UK in 1997 by the Nottingham branch of Medsin. The programme has since been a huge success. Many students have benefited from the scheme, and in return foreign students have had the chance to study in the UK and to improve their English language skills. The exchanges provide a unique educational and cultural experience to both outgoing and incoming students. Furthermore, it is a valuable addition to the medical curriculum.
There are now 4 medical schools that have since joined the program, collectively exchanging around 70 students each year! Medsin-UK is currently actively working on expanding the scheme nationwide. The scheme is entirely student-run and therefore needs well-motivated students to set it up and organise it.
Why undertake a Medsin Exchange?
There are certain features of the Exchanges programme that make it unique:
Medsin's Exchanges are bilateral. That means that for every student that goes overseas as part of our Exchanges programme, one comes in their place – the Exchange is a ‘straight swap’, whereby the outgoing (UK) student takes the place of the incoming (overseas) student and vice versa. Unlike electives, where UK students may add an additional burden to hospitals that may not have the capacity to train students of their own, let alone the UK’s, the resources are already in place in both countries to provide that placement. Exchanges allow students from both countries to benefit from learning how healthcare is delivered in different systems, in different settings, and in different cultures.
Run through the IFMSA, Medsin’s Exchanges are entirely coordinated by students. At each Medsin Branch running Exchanges is a Local Exchange Officer (LEO), who helps match up interested students in their Branch to countries of their choice, and oversees the incoming student when they arrive – often arranging a social programme to help them settle in! Nationally, two National Exchange Officers (NEOs) oversee incoming and outgoing Exchanges respectively. They are mandated to attend the IFMSA’s biannual General Assemblies, at which they meet and sign contracts with their counterparts from other countries, under the auspices of the Standing Committee on Professional Exchanges (SCOPE), which itself has elected student Directors.
Medical schools differ in many ways, and it is the responsibility of the LEO in each branch to liaise with their local faculty to facilitate the incoming Exchange student’s placement. The NEOs provide support in this process, and also address national issues such as visa requirements. Though in each university the Exchange is ultimately approved by the Dean of that medical school, all administrative tasks are carried out by our tireless student volunteers.
Unlike medical electives, the cost of tuition is already covered in Exchanges, as the incoming student is taking the place of the outgoing student. Participating students are asked to pay a fee to their Local Exchange Officer, the majority of which remains at a local level and is given to the incoming student as living costs – when the outgoing student arrives in their host country, they will be given a similar amount, relative to local living costs and in the local currency. The only costs involved, therefore, are travel, and a small administrative fee to cover Medsin’s membership to the IFMSA.
While Exchanges allow students to undertake a period of clinical training overseas with minimal financial cost, we are still very aware of the carbon cost of our Exchanges, and hope to find sustainable ways to tackle this in the future, while maintaining the opportunity for cross-cultural collaboration and education.
- Experiential Global Health Education and Academic Quality
Medsin believes that global health education is a core competency for the 21st-century doctor. As such, we hope that by maintaining a strong focus on global health education throughout the Exchanges programme, students may learn about health on a global level, as well as broadening their horizons.
Logbooks are currently being implemented throughout SCOPE to record and validate the quality of learning in another country. This is supported by the UK’s GMC, and is recognised as an excellent opportunity to learn about global and public health as part of a student’s medical education.
You can download a copy of Medsin’s logbook here. All outgoing UK students are required to complete this to demonstrate educational achievement throughout the Exchange.
What is SCOPE?
The Standing Committee of Professional Exchange (SCOPE) was at the core of the IFMSA’s foundation in 1951, as it was the first Standing Committee to be created. It continues to be the backbone of the Federation even today and constitutes its largest project ever.
SCOPE was born of the idea that medical students around the world form a uniform body, sensitive to the cultural differences and health care challenges, be it in their own country, or far away beyond their national frontiers. It also believed that this continuation and cooperation can be ensured through the clinical exchanges of medical students. This has been reflected in its mission statement:
“Promote cultural understanding and co-operation among medical students and all health professionals, through the facilitation of international students’ exchanges”
Today, 60 years later, 86 countries are involved in IFMSA-SCOPE and 8000 exchanges are undertaken each year. In all these countries, more than 1100 Medical schools and 770 IFMSA Local Committees were involved. These combined make SCOPE the largest students-run exchange program in the world, having “exchanged” more than 225,000 medical students throughout its history.
interested? Get involved!
If you’d like further information on setting up Medsin Exchanges in your Medsin Branch, click here for a step-by-step guide and further resources, or contact the National Exchange Officers, Victoria and Fatema-Zahra, on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Further sources of information