Short-term medical missions are common in medical educational settings and could possibly affect student learning. Little research has been conducted about the potential of these missions on students’ transformative learning, in particular as it relates to empathy and multicultural awareness.
Eight podiatric medical students who participated in short-term medical missions in 2008 and 2009 completed an electronic survey to investigate the effect of their experience as it relates to their learning. The empathy and multicultural awareness impact of the mission experience was emphasized. Qualitative questions in the survey were coded, themed, and triangulated with the quantitative responses.
Six students (75%) “strongly agreed” that participating in the medical mission was a significant positive experience in their podiatric medical training. Six students felt that their experiences in serving these communities increased their personal awareness of multicultural/diversity needs in general. All of the students agreed that they will become better podiatric physicians because of their experiences in the medical missions. The qualitative data also indicate that the experience had an effect on the students’ views of health care and increased empathy toward their patients.
Short-term medical missions could play a significant role in the transformative learning experience in podiatric medical education. This could affect the empathy and multicultural awareness of podiatric medical students. Further and more extensive evaluations of the potential impact of short-term medical missions in podiatric medical education should be explored because it could influence curriculum and global health in the field of podiatric medicine. (J Am Podiatr Med Assoc 102(1): 39–46, 2012)