Reflection on the Problems with Medical Volunteerism

Over the past two classes “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” has been an underlying topic of group discussions. From participating in group discussion I have come to realize how complicated medical volunteerism is, and how difficult and elaborate one has to be when attempting to solve some of the problems associated with it. One problem of medical voluntourism that I realized from today’s class discussion was that volunteer opportunities seem to be directed abroad rather than within the United States.

As a first year student I have noticed many volunteer abroad service trips that are advertised to students. I have received countless emails and seen posters hanging for these trips around campus however, I have only received one email directed towards local medical volunteering. From these observations and today’s class discussion, I believe that depending on what environment you are in can influence if you decide to volunteer abroad or volunteer locally. I also noticed that it seems like volunteering abroad is a “shortcut” to volunteering locally. When volunteering abroad you pay for the experience and participate in volunteer opportunities. While locally, (within the United States) in order to volunteer you need connections, an application and sometimes even an interview to be approved as a volunteer. Due to such an extensive process to volunteer locally, I can understand why many prospective volunteers choose to seek abroad volunteer programs rather than local programs.

Another aspect of today’s discussion that I found interesting was that in some cases graduate schools value abroad volunteer programs over local volunteer programs. Maddie shared from her research that while looking at a Physician’s Assistant program, she found that medical volunteering abroad trips were placed at a higher level than local volunteering. I found this interesting because there are countless people who could use care locally, yet higher level institutions are favoring international care. This leads me to my next concern, that possibly the problems of medical volunteering are not as prevalent as they should be or they are simply overlooked. As a result, I am glad that our class is making a honest attempt to bring awareness of the potential hazards and solutions of medical volunteerism on the Geneseo campus.


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