Short-term medical trips "aim to address unmet healthcare needs of low- and middle- income countries." The most common places to travel on these trips are Africa, Central America, South America and Southeast Asia.
Even though medical volunteers come with the right intentions, the lack of evaluation and regulation of these trips raises concerns. Some organizations do not require volunteers to have specific qualifications, which can leave them doing more harm than good. Most participants are pre-med students who want experience, but some are non-medical students that are simply looking to beef up their resume.
Nonetheless, volunteers are not prepared to assess and treat the medical conditions that pose challenges even for those who are properly trained.
We sat down with Dr. Andrea Freidus, assistant professor of anthropology at UNC Charlotte, to discuss the dangers of unqualified volunteers going on medical trips. She has done extensive research on volunteer tourism, focusing more recently on International Medical Experiences.