Medical Students and Doctors Without Borders

May 31, 2017


The greatest cause of stress most medical students face while preparing their residency applications is how well they did on their USMLE or COMLEX exams.   But not to be overlooked are reference letters, basic science & clerkship grades, personal statement and extracurricular activities.  Residency program directors want to see well rounded applications. 

What could make a big difference on your application is your volunteer experience.  Volunteering for a noteworthy cause either in your community or abroad and gaining invaluable experience could make the difference between getting your match or not.

One of the most noteworthy medical charitable organizations is Doctors without Borders. Better known as Medecins Sans Frontieres worldwide, this charitable group has been helping those in need of urgent medical care since December 22,1971. According to one of the MSF founders the idea is simple, go where the patients are without letting physical, political, or cultural borders stand in the way. The organization has grown incredibly since its founding. Today Doctors Without Borders maintains offices in 28 countries and employs over 30,000 people. Collectively the team has treated over one hundred million patients, 8.25 million of these being in 2014 alone.

What is volunteering with MSF like? According to their volunteer literature, life in the field can be extremely challenging. The medical professionals volunteering with Doctors Without Borders are often sent into areas still in active conflict or those where conflict has recently ended. This often means that the challenges of working in a foreign country are compounded by difficult living conditions, continual safety concerns, and long placement assignments with limited access to communication. That being said, the considerations to go into this type of work need to be measured carefully. Personal, professional, and family stresses are commonplace as is working in highly stressful environments. The decision to perform humanitarian medical work is a deeply personal one. You will need to weigh your level of risk and sacrifice against what you will ultimately gain from the experience and those you can help.

There is a definite need for medical volunteers worldwide. MSF-USA recruits medical students, physicians, nurses, surgeons, midwives, and more.  Volunteering not onlyallows you to gain experience and improve your resume but will give you a competitive edge during the match.

If you are not quite ready for the match and need to complete one or more of your Steps, contact WOLFPACC, where you will learn innovative approaches to the study and practice of medicine and techniques that will help you ace your COMLEX and USMLE exams. Call 904-209-3140 to speak to an enrollment specialist today.