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International medical electives undertaken by Australian medical students: current trends and future directions

In response to the increasing interest among medical students and junior doctors in studying and practising medicine abroad, the Medical Journal of Australia recently published A guide to working abroad for Australian medical students and junior doctors.1 It is in the context of increasing interest in global health2 and in the spirit of supporting young medical professionals that this study examines international medical electives (IMEs), specifically the number of Australian medical students undertaking them, and the support provided to those students by Australian medical schools.

Electives are a compulsory component of all medical curricula in . They are usually undertaken during senior clinical years over 2 to 8 weeks, either in or overseas, in both high- and low-resource settings. Consistent with increasing interest in global health, IME rates have been found to be high in the and increasing in the .2,3

Many benefits of IMEs have been described. Students report less dependence on technology; improved clinical, diagnostic and communication skills; better knowledge of tropical diseases and immigrant health; and better understanding of prevention, primary care and public health.