Medical Electives in Sub-Saharan Africa: A 15-Year Student/NGO-Driven Initiative

G. Quaglio*, D. Maziku, M. Bortolozzo, N. Parise, C. Di Benedetto, A. Lupato, C. Cavagna, A. Tsegaye, G. Putoto

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Web of Science)


Medical schools are developing global health programmes, and medical students are requesting global health training and creating opportunities when these are not provided by medical schools. This article described the Wolisso Project (WP), a medical experience on clinical electives in Sub-Saharan Africa, driven by a collaboration between a student organisation and a Nongovernmental Organization (NGO). Preclinical medical students spent 4 weeks as part of a multidisciplinary medical team in Africa. Post-elective questionnaires were administered to all subjects who participated in the project. Of all, 141 students responded to the questionnaire. The participants came from 30 Italian universities. The main difficulties reported are due to the lack of resources for the exercise of the medical activity, and difficulties related to language and communication. The African experience had a positive impact on the progress of the studies upon return, with an increase in determination and motivation. The experience had also positive influences on the future professional choices and carriers. The experience seems to contribute not only to the professional growth, but also to the personal development. A key factor in the positive outcomes of this experience is it being implemented by an NGO with long-term working relationships with the African populations. Another is that the project is carried out in health facilities where NGO staff have been working for a long time. These factors reduce the potential risks connected with this type of experience. They ensure a satisfactory level of supervision, the lack of which has been a serious problem in many similar experiences. A well-structured, mentored experience in international health can have a positive impact on preclinical students' attitudes, including their compassion, volunteerism, and interest in serving underserved populations. Only a small number of Italian universities facilitate pre-graduate medical elective experiences in LMICs. The WP seems to be attempting to compensate for the lack of international experience in LMICs offered by universities. Italian medical schools should incorporate changes in their curricula to train socially responsible physicians.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-283
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Community Health
Issue number2
Early online date11 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • Medical elective
  • International health
  • Sub Saharan-Africa
  • Global health

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