Medical Electives

A group of medical electives volunteering abroad with Health Poverty Action

Health Poverty Action offers rewarding medical electives around the world for medical students.

You will spend time volunteering on one of our projects delivering health services to very vulnerable populations.

Through Health Poverty Action you can tailor your placement to suit your interests and skills so do get in touch and we can work together to provide you with a unique and unforgettable experience.

Why do an elective with Health Poverty Action?

Health Poverty Action promotes and protects the health of the world’s poorest people. Founded 30 years ago by young British doctors, the organisation began delivering basic health services in the conflict zones of southern Afghanistan during the Soviet war. Since then we have worked in places where conflict, oppression and poverty are threatening people’s lives and health.

We specialise in providing medical care and health education to communities cut off from the outside world that almost everyone else has forgotten. We strengthen health services and train health workers to provide care and promote good health practices. We also tackle diseases of poverty such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB as well as diarrhoea, measles and pneumonia.

Public education also plays an important part in promoting good health and preventing the spread of disease. For individual mothers, fathers, friends and children, all these things can be the difference between grief and loss, or lives spent sharing, experiencing and growing old together. Health Poverty Action now works in 13 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America delivering life-saving healthcare and education to millions.

Change your own life and the lives of others

You’ll learn about delivering health services with little resources and see how education prevents disease. You’ll encounter medical conditions you’re unlikely to have seen so far like malaria or malnutrition. You’ll give a lot – and you’ll gain a lot. Florence Levy, our previous Nicaragua country director, says:

“Spending time in a developing country is a truly enriching experience. Seeing healthcare in a completely different context and culture will not only help you develop professionally, but personally too. Health challenges can be significant in countries with scant resources. It will be hard work, but the rewards will be many and great.”

 Lomprie Augustine Compreh is a hospital manager who welcomes students on Health Poverty Action’s electives. He tells us:

“We save a lot of lives at this hospital. 500 patients come through each month, and I would say between 150 and 200 have life-threatening conditions. Without the hospital, these people would have nowhere to go, and would surely suffer or die.”

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Where will I go?

Latin America: Guatemala (download the Guatemala Medical Elective – Overview) or Nicaragua (download the Nicaragua Medical Elective – Overview)

How long will I go for?

Most electives last between one and two months.

What will I do?

This is flexible depending on your skills, experiences, length of placement and country. Get in touch and we will work and we will plan your perfect placement together.

You’ll learn about delivering health services in poor communities with limited resources by shadowing health professionals in urban and rural settings.  You could be volunteering in a hospital, rural heath post or conducting outreach in villages. You could be training community health workers and volunteers or working with traditional birth attendants. Or perhaps you’ll undertake some small-scale research – devising surveys on topics like gender-based violence, or a toolkit for health clubs.

How much does it cost?

It depends on where you go and how long you stay. You should allow around £1,000 – £3,000 for your elective, which covers travel in country, a pre-departure briefing and support from our staff throughout your stay. You’ll also need to budget for vaccinations, insurance, flights, visa and spending money while overseas and in some places you will have to budget for accommodation. We can help you to arrange this.

Where will I stay?

It depends on where you go. You could be staying at the health centre or one of our favourite local guest houses.

What do you provide?

  • Help with arranging flights and visas
  • Pre departure briefing
  • Accommodation and travel in country
  • Support from our staff throughout your stay, from induction to departure
  • Pick up and drop off from the airport or nearest town

There’s a group of us. Can we do the elective together?

Of course. We may need to make special arrangements for larger groups, so do contact us soon if you are thinking about an elective in a group.

To find out more, ask us questions or express an interest please contact us on 020 7840 3777 or

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