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What Is Your Opinion On The Help, Learn & Discover Program?

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So I don't know if you know, but it seems to be pretty famous among pre-meds at my school.

For those that don't know what it is here's the link: http://www.ecuaexperience.com/

It's a volunteering opportunity for premeds where they spend a month (can't remember exactly) in Ecuador

shadowing physicians/ surgeons and helping out the underprivileged community.

 

So my friends are super hyped about this and they are planning to apply for it.

It seems that many other students are interested too. 

 

As ACTUAL MED STUDENTS, what is your opinion about this program? 

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I have already voiced my opinion on this multiple times in the past and I have no energy repeating myself entirely, but this is what comes to my mind in no particular order.

- paid vacations for rich kids to pad their CVs

- FB profile pic with a poor black kid

- FB pic with a stethoscope around your neck and SELFIE, although you have no idea how to use it

- these kids commonly misplace bricks because they don't know how to lay bricks, and they think building unsafe buildings will help... 

- you'd think you are learning about poverty + helping out while in reality you just perpetuate poverty there for a million of different reasons

Edit: VOLUNTOURISM BASICALLY

Edit2: why go elsewhere when poverty is a problem for many in Canada?

 

I am strongly opposed to such BS, so do take what I say with a grain of salt, especially because I am tired and salty right now.

Edited by Arztin

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It's an expensive, manufactured experience that helps no one but the student paying to go. For those who have plenty of money and the time to spare, maybe that's still worth it. Though taking a quick look through the website provided, this particular program seems awfully sketchy. Even for blatant voluntourism programs, it's not hard to find ones that at least have a functional website...

 

As the other posters have said though, if you want some authentic experiences and to do some actual good - rather than the illusion programs like this are selling - there are hundreds of opportunities here at home that fit the bill, including many with most positive impacts abroad. And if you really want to go abroad, just pay for a vacation! While it might not seem like it, real tourism is usually more beneficial for the destination countries than these sorts of volunteering-based trips.

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I thought we were passed this crap. Does anyone actually still think this counts as an EC?

 

Well I mean I think it would substantially boost your resume since you are shadowing doctors and surgeons as well as "volunteering" to "help" the underprivileged..

I can't think of a reason why it would be detrimental to your application. I agree with the others that it's not creative and that it's sort of a premed cliche.

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Well I mean I think it would substantially boost your resume since you are shadowing doctors and surgeons as well as "volunteering" to "help" the underprivileged..

I can't think of a reason why it would be detrimental to your application. I agree with the others that it's not creative and that it's sort of a premed cliche.

.

It may help somewhat at some schools, but others explicitly discount these sorts of paid experiences, for the reasons Arztin listed. This has nothing to do with the experience being a typical pre-med experience - plenty of other typical pre-med ECs are worthwhile and considered as such by all schools who look at ECs - but with the merits (or lack thereof) of paying to volunteer abroad.

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It might say you are invested in helping others, or maybe just that you are privileged.

 

I think voluntourism is unnecessary but there's nothing wrong with being privileged right? Will the adcoms look down on this?

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I think voluntourism is unnecessary but there's nothing wrong with being privileged right? Will the adcoms look down on this?

 

No, but I don't think this experience will be looked upon any more favorably than other local experiences, like volunteering at an inner city clinic. In other words, if I was reviewing applications for admissions, I would not give this medical student more brownie points or gold stars just because they shadowed a bunch of doctors in a developing nation.

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I think it's important to be consistent. Do things that reflect your values. So for example if every year you went overseas to volunteer, and every year your involvement increased, and you took more responsibility, stayed for longer, etc that could be compelling. If you randomly in your fourth year volunteered 20 hours at like five random unrelated places, and then did the overseas volunteer thing, it could appear as though you were checking off a box. It might be perceived as insincere.

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Well I mean I think it would substantially boost your resume since you are shadowing doctors and surgeons as well as "volunteering" to "help" the underprivileged..

I can't think of a reason why it would be detrimental to your application. I agree with the others that it's not creative and that it's sort of a premed cliche.

Lol, it wont "substantially" boost your resume. No one cares about pre-med shadowing in Canada.

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Well I mean I think it would substantially boost your resume since you are shadowing doctors and surgeons as well as "volunteering" to "help" the underprivileged..

I can't think of a reason why it would be detrimental to your application. I agree with the others that it's not creative and that it's sort of a premed cliche.

Detrimental or not for your application, I cannot say for sure.

 

But that kind of activity is severly detrimental to the locals.

 

1- First off, these companies use these population in a sense as zoo animals. You are basically paying a ticket to see these ''animals''.

Sure you might think you are helping but are you really? No you aren't.

The kids there need real teachers. They don't need amateur kids who go there each 3-4 weeks, who do whatever, not knowing what it is to be a teacher. Moreover, there's a reason you have the same teacher all year round. One being: for education: you need continuity, and second reason being: to actually teach kids the things they need to learn, and continuity helps tremendously.

 

2- Same logic goes for other things: such as building construction. I have never laid bricks in my entire life. I would not trust myself laying bricks. These kids go there and lay bricks, and local workers have to waste their precious time taking them down afterwards.

 

3- you give false hope to the local childrens who have virtually no real chance of making it as far as the rich kid who can go there and travel. They will see you as a role model in a sense, even though you are in no way a role model

 

4- the most important thing about patient care is patient safety. I have done 7 months of clinical rotations and I'm nowhere good enough to trust myself to be of actual help to staff physicians most of the time, nor would I trust myself to do things independently. If you think a premed student who doesn't know shit can help physicians in a clinical setting, you are god damn wrong. Not only that but these are real people going in hospitals needing real care because they are sick. They're not experimental guinea pigs of random premeds slowing down the local physicians. Edit: I understand it's hard to get exposure as a premed and premeds are keen, but patient safety comes first, and having people who absolutely don't know what they are doing in the hospital is dangerous.

 

5- these organizations have no real plan on helping these people. If they wanted, they wouldn't be having useless premeds there. By going there, you give reason to these companies to keep using these people as zoo animals so rich kids can go there and take pictures and selfies. In a sense, it's perpetuation of colonialism and it certainly perpetuates the poverty.

 

If you want to make a real contribution, you can raise funds and give it to people who actually know what they are doing like the Red Cross for example.

 

I'm going to pin this thread because it will likely come back again and premeds need to know.

 

EDIT: and don't get me wrong. I think most kids going there have good intensions, which I am not trying to discredit, but please, if you want to help people, do something else.

Edited by Arztin

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So I don't know if you know, but it seems to be pretty famous among pre-meds at my school.

For those that don't know what it is here's the link: http://www.ecuaexperience.com/

It's a volunteering opportunity for premeds where they spend a month (can't remember exactly) in Ecuador

shadowing physicians/ surgeons and helping out the underprivileged community.

 

So my friends are super hyped about this and they are planning to apply for it.

It seems that many other students are interested too. 

 

As ACTUAL MED STUDENTS, what is your opinion about this program? 

and gosh just look at the website. Living in hotels at night and have fun one third of the time, while locals are living in poverty.

I am just disgusted by looking at the description of their ''medical program'' schedule.

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Everything Arztin said is just gold on this matter. 

 

The only nuance I'd like to add to other comments is the idea helping in Canada or helping elsewhere is not mutually exclusive. You can both help our indigenous communities as well as go in another country to help other communities. But wherever you go, you need a strong background and formation before going and it has to be supervised and lead by more experienced local professionals. Also very important, you need an extensive formation on the country you are headed to, to really understand their reality and become very culturally sensitive to their perspectives on health. 

 

Your actions have to be ethical no matter what your environment is. You wouldn't just go in just any Toronto hospital and start helping out surgeons, because you know you would be endangering patients with your lack of knowledge and competency. Then why take the risk elsewhere? Are their lives less important? I'm pretty sure no one is thinking that while volunteering abroad, but that is the underlying message I perceive unfortunately.

 

And even if you just stand there and watch. You're telling me a patient may have to sit through one of the worst moments of his life, where he'll feel the most vulnerable and scared... being observed by a group of kids who probably won't understand much more of what is happening than him? All of that just so they can write in their personal essay and gush in their interview of how this experience completely transformed them and opened their eyes on some medical realities in other parts of the world?

 

I'm really sorry for how harsh this may sound, I really don't want to judge people doing it, but I find their actions careless and thoughtless nonetheless. 

 

I remember in some of my internships at the hospital, where I would follow and observe a dietitian, I noticed how a couple of patients were at first uncomfortable by my presence. But they understood why I was there, they knew my presence was required so I could learn and become a RD myself. But why should patients in other countries suffer the presence of unexperienced students if it is not to form professionals that will help their own society?

 

When I finished my dietetics/nutrition degree, some of my fellow classmates went to Benin to give nutrition classes to other health professionals there. The whole program was based on a long-lasting partnership between our two universities. It was overseen by a RD and they had classes/activities all year to learn the local culture and food customs. When I asked them for feedback on the experience thinking of doing something similar myself, they told me that they felt awkward most of the time because they were giving them advices and knowledge based on their experiences and studies in Canada, that did not really apply to the local realities. This taught me that with all the care we may take when trying to avoid a paternalist approach of humanitarian help, the risks are still present for us perpetuating neocolonialist stereotypes.

 

And I believe in humanitarian help. I think international collaboration in health can be crucial, mostly when dealing with "acute health crisis" like what Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross are doing. But I also believe we have to thoroughly think our approach so it can be helpful, adapted and anchored in a perspective of knowledge transfer rather of than this sort of dominant-dominee relationship where one country is almighty with knowledge and resources, and the other just passively waiting to be helped.

 

Many sociologues, doctors and other professionals are working on it. And I'm pretty sure premeds students paying 3k to shadow in the morning, sunbath in the afternoon, are not what they have in mind.

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honest question, how would you recommend doing this?

There are MANY initiatives already in-place - especially those that are targetting indigenous youth. As an example, if you live in Vancouver: http://www.unya.bc.ca/

 

The onus is on you to actively seek out initiatives that support indigenous communities.

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honest question, how would you recommend doing this?

If you have a particularly useful skill and training, you can network through that to find opportunities to help.

Otherwise, raising money is pretty much always the most useful thing you can do.

 

I worked with the MS society and the premeds I knew at school were always asking me for volunteer opportunities, somehow thinking that they would be exposed to neurologists and patient care.

It drove me nuts when I would spell out to them that what was really needed was money and that if they really wanted to help MS patients that they should sign up for one of the several fundraisers that I helped organize.

They usually balked at that and said something like "I'm looking for a more hands on experience" and I would be like "so you don't *actually* want to help MS patients. Got it".

 

So few undergrads have skills or training to actually be of more use than money.

Your time is only worth what someone would pay you for it, so if you have a minimum wage skill set, then even raising $100 is more valuable than an entire day of volunteering, especially since it usually requires staff to supervise you while you are there, so a volunteer can actually end up costing money if they have literally zero skills and can't be left alone to work unsupervised.

 

It's like the food bank that loses money on having to sort and store useless canned goods, but people like to do can drives more than they like to give money, and the charity doesn't want to piss people off so they just keep sucking up the cost of dealing with the stupid cans. The people who give cans mean well, they just don't like to do what would actually be helpful.

 

The best thing to do is to figure out something of value that you can provide and do a cost benefit analysis of the value of your possible services vs how much time and energy it would take to raise that amount.

 

The reason these voluntourism trips are so offensive (other than the well stated points above) is because the skills and time premeds are offering aren't worth even close to the cost of the trip itself. It's not helping anyone to fly unskilled undergrads to a foreign country when that money could have gone to fly actual doctors somewhere, for example.

 

A big part of helping is learning how to be helpful.

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If you have a particularly useful skill and training, you can network through that to find opportunities to help.

Otherwise, raising money is pretty much always the most useful thing you can do.

 

I worked with the MS society and the premeds I knew at school were always asking me for volunteer opportunities, somehow thinking that they would be exposed to neurologists and patient care.

It drove me nuts when I would spell out to them that what was really needed was money and that if they really wanted to help MS patients that they should sign up for one of the several fundraisers that I helped organize.

They usually balked at that and said something like "I'm looking for a more hands on experience" and I would be like "so you don't *actually* want to help MS patients. Got it".

 

So few undergrads have skills or training to actually be of more use than money.

Your time is only worth what someone would pay you for it, so if you have a minimum wage skill set, then even raising $100 is more valuable than an entire day of volunteering, especially since it usually requires staff to supervise you while you are there, so a volunteer can actually end up costing money if they have literally zero skills and can't be left alone to work unsupervised.

 

It's like the food bank that loses money on having to sort and store useless canned goods, but people like to do can drives more than they like to give money, and the charity doesn't want to piss people off so they just keep sucking up the cost of dealing with the stupid cans. The people who give cans mean well, they just don't like to do what would actually be helpful.

 

The best thing to do is to figure out something of value that you can provide and do a cost benefit analysis of the value of your possible services vs how much time and energy it would take to raise that amount.

 

The reason these voluntourism trips are so offensive (other than the well stated points above) is because the skills and time premeds are offering aren't worth even close to the cost of the trip itself. It's not helping anyone to fly unskilled undergrads to a foreign country when that money could have gone to fly actual doctors somewhere, for example.

 

A big part of helping is learning how to be helpful.

 

This very much depends on the type of charity work being done. Some efforts are financially-constrained, but others are constrained by a lack of manpower. Research-based initiatives tend to lack funding more than people, but many community-based groups need people far more than money. For undergrads without much in the way of specialized skills and no money to contribute, focusing on these latter groups, which need people more than money, I'd argue is the better approach. Fundraising can be helpful, but has its own downsides as well - for premeds without either skills or money, many causes could be more effectively addressed by taking a long view, working on career development to acquire useful skills or income which can then be put towards these causes.

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