Not sure how or where to begin planning your elective? A 6-Step Timeline is provided in detail below.

As a 1st year student, attend the OIA Global Experience Infosession, the IHF 2-day summer experiences panel , global health interest group meetings for Honduran Health Alliance and Proyecto Puentes de Salud, and learn about what your options are for global health electives and courses during medical school at UNC (Fall of 1st year). Ask the OIA Program Manager!

UNC medical students most often complete global health electives during:
• Summer between 1st and 2nd year for up to 8 weeks during the “individualization phase”. Six credits are available for electives during this period and ONLY 6 credits from pre-clinical courses can be counted towards the 18 elective credits necessary for graduation.

• As a 4th year student, during the “individualization phase,” you can do a total of two months (12 credits) of global health elective time for credit. Generally, this would include two separate electives with clear objectives and learning opportunities and a medical component (language school only would not count). The best time is generally between January (after residency interviews) and March (before the required Capstone course). This needs to be carefully discussed with your faculty advisor and the Office of International Activities.

• Some students take a leave from medical school to complete an MPH or a specific global health fellowship program. This longer global health possibility (from 6-12 months) is an important consideration for students seriously considering a career in global health. You can take two years off medical school for any reason. Some of the opportunities for extended global health work for medical students can be found on our funding page under the longer term experiences.

There are many important reasons to do a global health elective but what you get out of it will at least partially be determined by what ideas you went into it with. Think about:

Why do you want to go? To broaden your life experience? To test the possibilities of devoting at least part of your medical career to international health? To experience and learn from another culture? To have opportunity to improve language skills? To serve others (or learn how to serve) with fewer resources and access to health care? To seek out information about the health and health care system of your own country of origin or ancestry?

What kind of experience do you want? Clinical, public-health related, or research? At what level, in what technical area, and in what type of institution? What do you hope for in a mentor/preceptor? Do you want to work with a group, or be integrated into ongoing care with nationals? What location preferences do you have: geographic, linguistic, nationality; urban, rural, or remote? If you are married or have a partner, what will they do, what are their views, and how will they share your experience?

There are established programs in many countries, and you can always create your own project as well. There are numerous resources you can use to find a program that might interest you. You can start with looking our list of programs and past student experiences and other organizations.

Please note that UNC Office of the Provost maintains a UNC Travel Policy, considering US State Department warnings as well as CDC travel advisories. This determines which countries students (as well as resident physicians and faculty) can officially travel to. There is currently a list of countries that students cannot travel to and others need special waivers. If you are considering travel to a Level II or Level III country, please contact Shay Slifko in our office right away ().

To register for a global health elective or selective and receive credit, you MUST have a UNC medical school faculty advisor who registers you for a specific elective course in their department. Possible courses all listed in the electives catalog (some are listed in the table below). You need to obtain an elective request form from Leanne Shook ( 1001 Bondurant Hall) or on the “Forms” section of this website and have your advisor sign it to register for an international elective. Leanne can help coordinate the timing of the registration to meet both course requirements and financial aid guidelines.

Any UNC medical school faculty CAN be your faculty advisor if they are able to sign off on your elective request, approve registration for you in an elective course in their department, and take responsibility for working with you to plan an appropriate learning experience, completing your evaluation and grade submission. The Office of International Activities will work with you and your faculty advisor to make sure you have the information you need to plan a great elective and that the paperwork for evaluation of your global health elective gets completed.

Several lists have been compiled, but the most up-to-date information can be found using the faculty search engine generated by the University Center for Global Initiatives. Enter key words to find the faculty involved in the international project or topic that you’re interested in.

The CGI also provides a collaborative agreements search engine giving “information on the international collaborative activities, partnerships, and research projects of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill,” which may be helpful as well. Also check with the Institute for Global Health & Infectious Disease and the School of Public Health Office of Global Health for specific areas of interest and geographic experience of UNC faculty for ideas. Many faculty are willing to help with mentoring for international electives.

One of the best ways to find out who is involved in international projects is by talking with faculty members (teachers, ICM preceptors, Dr. Dent, etc.) and classmates or upperclassmen. They will all be glad to help you find what you’re interested in.

It is very easy, in the busyness of medical school, to get overwhelmed with paperwork and arrangements and to miss deadlines for getting things done. Global health opportunities are usually well worth the effort, but do require staying on top of things.
Finding funding for going abroad generally comes from one of three sources:

Scholarships or Grants – there are a wide variety of scholarships and grants on campus that you can apply to as well as those through national organizations such as AMSA, AMA, or AOA that can help make your trip possible. A list of funding sources is available here to get you started.

Yourself – In most situations, a global health elective is going to cost some money out of your pocket. Students in the past have raised money from friends and family, picked up flexible jobs like valeting, waiting tables etc. Funding for global health electives for medical students is limited, particularly for electives which are service-oriented.

Loans – If you are getting credit for your project abroad, you are eligible to receive financial aid. In order to receive financial aid before your trip, you need to apply for it at least 6 weeks prior to departure (and your elective request/credit application MUST be submitted before you apply). For questions regarding loans or other financial issues, contact Sheila Graham (, 1001 Bondurant Hall). If you want to apply for financial aid loan money for your global health elective you need to register for the elective in the summer session (and you also must pay summer tuition). If you do not need financial aid loan money, you can register for the elective as part of your MS2 fall classes so that the tuition is covered in the tuition package, even though you will complete the elective and required class work and evaluation during the summer.

Failure to travel without completing the UNC SOM travel requirements may result in academic credit forfeiture or non-reimbursement of UNC-sponsored travel expenses, or could place you at financial risk should you require medical evacuation.

HOnduran Health Alliance- Clinic Day

Although there are always inherent risks with international travel, we want to do everything possible to prepare students to have safe and enjoyable experiences and we also want to be certain that you have the information needed to respond to an emergency if need be. UNC SOM students and faculty must abide by UNC travel policies and emergency procedures.