The Potential Impact of Morality on Medical Student Global Health Participation

  •  Joel Rowe    
  •  Stephen G. Post    


Interest in global health experiences (GHEs) has surged in the last decade throughout undergraduate medical education. Positive clinical and cultural learning impacts are well described; however, the moral and motivational typology of the globally minded medical student are yet to be elucidated. We surveyed 85 US medical students, 41 who participated in a GHE during medical school and 44 who did not, to examine their sense of moral association with local community, Americans, and all of humanity. Measures of empathy and spirituality were also administered, as well as a qualitative prompt to elicit reasons for participating, or not, in a GHE. The results of logic regression analysis suggest that the strongest predictors of GHE participation are strong, geographically non-specific identification with ‘all humanity’ [OR=1.31, P<0.01, 95% CI, 1.07–1.59], as well as participation in an abroad experience prior to medical school [OR 141, P<0.01, 95% CI, 10.1–1960]. While respondent groups did not differ significantly in their association with local community, incremental increase in identification with ‘Americans’ decreased likelihood of IME participation by 20% [P=0.02, 95% CI, 0.67–0.96]. No significant effect was found between participant groups in response to empathy or spirituality scales. This pilot study demonstrates that a global regard for ‘all humanity’ may motivate GHE participation while a strong national association diminishes its likelihood.

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