I received several questions this week from international-minded medical students regarding what specialty to select. Wonderful are your intentions over how to best prepare yourselves for a life of serving! My short answer is, choose the specialty that most interests you. There exists the misconception that only primary care specialties are appropriate for medical missions. While it is indeed true that the greatest needs in developing nations are in public health and primary care, there is also an important role for specialists. Ophthalmologists, orthopedists, plastic surgeons, for example, all have unique talents to offer people in low-resource nations. Teaching opportunities - better suited for specialists - are constantly expanding in developing nations and offer influential positions to multiply one’s skills among nationals. There also is a real possibility that at some point you will practice back home. For all these reasons, medical students do better when they pursue specialties in which they are genuinely interested, and then apply these skills to the context of medical missions.
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