Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health

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Medical School Global Health

Responding to a growing need in U.S. academia for health care professionals equipped with global expertise in local and international settings, VIGH and VUSM have developed three distinct global health opportunities for third- and fourth-year medical students. As an element of the medical school curriculum, the overarching mission of Medical Student Research Curriculum at Vanderbilt is to educate our students about biomedical research through a series of coursework, training, and experience in order to help them develop their critical thinking, innovation, leadership, and moral and civic capacities to the fullest. Participation in global health research and training programs and other directed study provides students with the foundation necessary for future work as international clinicians and researchers. Students are encouraged to take advantage of the wealth of research opportunities both at Vanderbilt and beyond, including year-long, short-term, and summer training programs.


For a quick summary of global health opportunities available to medical students, view our powerpoint or handout.



Integrated Science Course (ISC)

This course is a one-month clinical rotation that introduces students to key topics and concepts in global health including diseases, conditions, and health interventions common in low-resource settings. Health and developmental issues across nations and cultures that require collective (partnership-based) action are highlighted. Placements at ISC sites are at Vanderbilt partner locations around the world including Guatemala, Honduras, Jordan, Kenya, and Nicaragua. This didactic course is taught through both a series of online global health modules that introduce students to key topics and concepts in global health and weekly Skype mentoring sessions with their VUSM faculty mentor. Students may participate in an immersion block in August, October, or February of their 3rd or 4th year of medical school.

Advanced Clinical Experience (ACE)

The Global Health ACE course allows students to pursue a clinical interest in a low-resource setting. These courses are “one-offs” in which students generally arrange the site placement under the guidance of a VUSM faculty mentor. This one-month clinical rotation typically does not include structured instruction as in an ISC. This elective course for 3rd and 4th year students provide an opportunity for additional clinical experiences at global sites. Some of our partner sites include:

  • China: Qilu Hospital of Shandong University – focus on Chinese Traditional Medicine, EM, Internal Med, OB/GYN, Pediatrics, Surgery, Anesthesia
  • Jordan: Jordan University Hospital
  • Mozambique: Universidade Eduardo Mondlane – focus Pediatrics and Lab Sciences
  • Zambia:University of Zambia (UNZA)/ University Teaching Hospital (UTH) –  EM, Internal Med, OB/GYN, Anesthesia, Pediatrics

Research Immersion

VIGH supports medical students interested in expanding their knowledge of health issues of international significance through research projects in developing countries. Potential projects span over two dozen countries where VIGH has established partnerships and include a broad range of current themes in global health; from medical sciences and clinical investigation to socio-cultural correlates of health and health care delivery.

This global health research opportunity allows students to complete a 3-6 month research project that encompasses both public health and biomedical science. Areas of investigation often include the assessment of community needs and plans to meet those needs, socio-cultural determinants of health and health behavior, health care delivery, basic science, clinical investigation, and implementation science. Students receive mentoring from a VUSM faculty. For more information refer to Community and Global Health Research.

Recent medical student global health research:

  • Patient perspectives on opt-out HIV screening in a Guyanese emergency department
  • Attrition of psychiatric patients at the Mental Health Commission of Ayacucho
  • Identifying factors associated with loss-to-follow-up among pre-ART patients in Zambezia Province, Mozambique through interview and other qualitative methods
  • Assessing a community development project associated with a micro-lending of livestock to HIV infected persons
  • Analyzing questions critical to the effective development, distribution, and consumption of the GuateNut product
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus / Asthma and Dengue in the Northern Argentina
  • Public health assessments in the Navajo Reservation in “The Four Corners” (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado)


VIGH Associate Director Douglas Heimburger, M.D., M.S., advises students interested in pursuing global health as an integrated part of their medical training.