US medical specialty global health training and the global burden of disease

Vanessa B. Kerry, Rochelle P. Walensky, Alexander C. Tsai, Regan W. Bergmark, Brian A. Bergmark, Chaturia Rouse, David R. Bangsberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Background: Rapid growth in global health activity among US medical specialty education programs has lead to heterogeneity in types of activities and global health training models. The breadth and scope of this activity is not well chronicled. Methods: Using a standardized search protocol, we examined the characteristics of US medical residency global health programs by number of programs, clinical specialty, nature of activity (elective, research, extended curriculum based field training), and geographic location across seven different clinical medical residency education specialties. We tabulated programmatic activity by clinical discipline, region and country. We calculated the Spearman's rank correlation coefficient to estimate the association between programmatic activity and country-level disease burden. Results: Of the 1856 programs assessed between January and June 2011, there were 380 global health residency training programs (20%) working in 141 countries. 529 individual programmatic activities (elective-based rotations, research programs, extended curriculum- based field training, or other) occurred at 1337 specific sites. The majority of the activities consisted of elective-based rotations. At the country level, disease burden had a statistically significant association with programmatic activity (Spearman's ρ = 0.17) but only explained 3% of the total variation between countries. Conclusions: There were a substantial number of US medical specialty global health programs, but a relative paucity of surgical and mental health programs. Elective-based programs were more common than programs that offer longitudinal experiences. Despite heterogeneity, there was a small but statistically significant association between program location and the global burden of disease. Areas for further study include the degree to which US-based programs develop partnerships with their program sites, the significance of this activity for training, and number and breadth of programs in medical specialty global health education in other countries around the world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number020406
JournalJournal of global health
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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