When Prof. Judith Lasker last addressed MSIH students and faculty, she’d recently published her book, “Hoping to Help: The Promises and Pitfalls of Global Health Volunteering.” In her work, she describes how many charities and NGOs, hoping to help underprivileged populations, were often far from achieving the lofty goals they’d set themselves. Indeed, more often than not, there was no follow-up at all, and in many cases, when Prof. Lasker inquired, she discovered the recipient population wasn’t at all satisfied with the “help” they’d received.
Mid-pandemic, in January 2021, Prof. Lasker, (Emerita of Lehigh University), again addressed MSIH – this time to explain what has changed in the years since her last presentation. (Anyone wishing to watch a recording of the presentation can do so here.)
Global Health Clerkships
A co-founder of “Advocacy for Global Health Partnerships”, a coalition that emerged from the Consortium of Universities of Global Health, Prof. Lasker’s deep interest in MSIH developed, among other things, because of the School’s approach to its 4th year Global Health Clerkships.
For years, MSIH has been cultivating its relationships with its Global Health partners in Low Income Countries (LICs). Students attend well-constructed medical experiences and are supervised by physicians well known to MSIH – many have visited the School on several occasions.
“MSIH understands the need for reciprocity,” explains Prof. Noah Liel, head of the GH clerkship program. “In addition to the students, there’s a regular flow of faculty in both directions. We visit the sites every year, and we make a point to invite their faculty to visit us too.”
An even more unique element of the MSIH program is that the School annually hosts a small cohort of partner institutions’ medical students for periods of up to 10-12 weeks.
“We’re not aware of any other school that does this,” says Prof. Liel.
Nine Characteristics of Effective GH Trips
Very few – if any – medical schools cultivate the type of two-way relationship that MSIH does – and Prof. Lasker sees the School’s model as an example to everyone. Indeed she has developed “Nine Characteristics of Effective Global Health Volunteer Trips.”
- Mutuality between partners
- Continuity of program
- Needs assessment driven by host community
- Evaluation process of outcomes
- Focus on prevention
- Integration of diverse types of health services
- Building local capacity
- Strengthening volunteer preparation
- Longer stays
“We are very happy to say that MSIH adheres to all of Prof. Lasker’s relevant directives,” says Prof Mark Clarfield, former director of MSIH and now head of the School’s Global health curriculum and chair of the BGU Faculty’s new Centre for Global Health.
Fortunately, since Prof. Lasker’s book brought attention to the subject, a few important things have changed and people and organizations are beginning to ask critical questions. In the past, few had any doubt that their program was beneficial to the host community – despite the lack of follow-up or evidence. Now, some are re-evaluating their programs and working with guidelines issued by professional organizations. At the same time, in some host countries where people were exploiting the system for their own benefit, action is now being taken to put things right.
“We are so privileged to have people like Prof. Lasker working with us,” says Prof. Alan Jotkowitz, Director of MSIH. “She has a wealth of information and experience and it’s wonderful that she appreciates the way MSIH works with its partner communities.”