The Division of Community Engagement

Benefits of Field Station Electives


Students and residents at all levels of training are encouraged to consider the opportunity to participate in a global health elective. Students between years 1 and 2 are encouraged to undertake public health oriented experiences, while other students past the end of second year will have the opportunity to undertake a clinical elective. These experiences are in institutions located in Low & Middle Income Countries (LMICs) -- as defined by the World Bank –to learn about health delivery systems, experience medicine in another culture, develop an understanding of the different burden of disease, and have an overall experience of a different culture. This program is designed to enhance students’ knowledge in global health, cultural safety, tropical and medicine generally and public health.  All residents are also equally eligible.

Learners may ask when the best time is to do a global health elective. There are a few things to consider:

  • When do you have time available in your schedule?
  • When are the elective hosts/supervisors able to provide supervision for you?
  • What is the minimum duration of the elective (often specified by the hosts)?
  • What is the maximum amount of time and funding that you have available?

During the first two years of undergraduate medical training at the University of Alberta, summer is the most convenient time to undertake an elective. Following the first year of medical school, you will have four months available. Following the second year, you will have three months. The third and fourth years of undergraduate medical training have 8 and 5 weeks, respectively, set aside for electives. Both years will also have an additional two weeks set aside as holiday time. You may use any/all of your elective and holiday time towards an international elective.

A unique opportunity has been developed to encourage a full range of experiences in the Global Health Program’s Field Station Program, currently in about 10 countries with new relationships being established. Currently, in order to be approved for an international elective, students must undertake a minimum of 15 hours of pre-departure preparation, comprising of the mandatory 3-hour Pre-departure Training Session also known as Risk Management and the 12-hour Global Health elective.  

Residents are required to do the pre-departure training session (available as an on-line module) unless they have done equivalent training as students either at the University of Alberta or at another Canadian medical school.

International electives in LMICs foster an expanded view of the world, enhance critical thinking, and adds to learners’ understanding of human rights, health equity and social justice. Whatever the ultimate career goal, a global health elective will be a highly worthwhile and positive experience.

Clinical electives are only available for UAlberta medical students who have completed their second year. Any prior international clinical experiences are supported and will be noted on their CV, but they will not receive official elective credits from the MD Program.  Placements are usually a minimum of four weeks and the longer the better. All students wanting to be considered for the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry bursary MUST undertake electives of no less than 4 weeks. Bursaries are available to students undertaking electives in LMICs in FoMD Field Stations.

Field Station locations are sites where FoMD has ongoing relationships and where some of our faculty travel from time to time.  Among other things, these relationships allow the Global Health Program to monitor learners’ experiences more carefully as well as ensure that the local hosts have the resources to undertake the hosting of learner electives. There are a wide range of disciplines available for electives. These differ from Field Station to Field Station.  To view the opportunities available through the Global Health Office go to GH Field Stations shadow clinical electives.

Note that electives to countries with Canadian Government Travel Warnings recommending “Avoid all travel” or “Avoid non – essential travel” will not be approved.  As well, countries where Peacekeepers are deployed are not permitted.  See where Peacekeeping Operations are currently located here.

Some helpful documents to assist students in preparation for overseas electives are:

Cross-Cultural Health Ethics in Resource-Poor Settings

Safety Abroad

Guidelines for the Management of Bloor or Body Fluid Exposure, 2001

Blood Pathogen Card

Exposure to Human Blood or Other Body Fluid, UAlberta Website

Human Blood or Body Fluid Exposure Protocol, MD Policies & Procedures