Value of Independent Medical Education: A Global Perspective

Connecting with people in diverse regions of the world, whether personally or professionally, enriches our lives. This is a why global perspective in independent medical education (IME) is so effective. Depending on where the healthcare professional (HCP) resides and in what specialty they focus, there may not be an abundance of faculty and IME providers who understand their region’s perspective, motivations, and challenges, thus making it hard for these HCPs to get the education that’s right for them. For HCPs who find themselves in regions ripe with experts and IME providers in their field, having access to and instruction from faculty who represent multiple areas of the world can provide a perspective that deepens their understanding of common concepts and bring an awareness of differences across regional lines. The world is becoming better connected as time goes on, and globally-focused IME will reflect that.

When an HCP specializes in a particular area of medicine and becomes engrossed in its practice in a community, they may become shut off from the broader picture. Having access to expert IME faculty across the globe can help broaden the HCP’s education about conditions and perspectives important to regions of the world other than the one in which they practice. Learning from IME providers and thought leaders representing a variety of specialties, healthcare systems, and regional practice knowledge can help increase HCPs’ understanding of key improvements to practice.. This initiates the identification of unifying threads, heightens awareness of contrasting differences, and deepens everyone’s understanding of the impact of health-related issues to different populations.

A good, globally-focused IME program does more than just connect HCPs, however. Faculty with diverse backgrounds will include those with regional expertise in most HCPs’ local and national regulatory environments, practice models, and health systems. This can be incredibly impactful to a medical professional working in a more isolated community or with a region-specific health condition or concern. Independent medical education instructors from a globally-focused program can connect directly with HCPs from all corners of the world, as they will understand the specific medical environments in these regions. All HCPs, regardless of where they practice, seek medical education that is relevant to their communities’ primary concerns and their regions’ challenges. They will naturally seek out an IME program that can provide this knowledge.

After connecting HCPs from diverse regions and addressing the challenges unique to each of their communities, globally-focused IME can then take these connections one step further. Initiating a conversation such as, “Where are cancer treatments most affordable?” may spur discussions about the social and political reasons behind healthcare cost discrepancies. Discussing “What area of the world has the highest incidence of depression?” could lead to in-depth discourse on the biological and environmental risk factors for depression and how these can differ from region to region. And asking “How do different communities reduce infant mortality rates?” might lead to powerful illustrations of communities’ innovative uses of resources and ideas to care for expectant mothers and infants. Exploring these topics on a global scale can help medical professionals identify resources, concepts, and ideas that they may not have otherwise considered.

The world itself is becoming better connected over time, both practically (through travel) and technologically. This can have positive impacts on the medical field, such as better patient access to care. As time goes on, there are fewer reasons for HCPs to limit themselves to their region’s medical landscape. Medical students seem to understand this already; according to a recent study, interest in global health education is on the rise among the next generation of doctors. They are interested in understanding the challenges that HCPs in different regions of the world face, and are more motivated than their predecessors to affect change in areas with lower access to care. As this trend continues, future generations of HCPs will be more interested in IME opportunities that include globally-inspired concepts and topics.

Medicine evolves rapidly. Independent medical education must deliver insights that help HCPs enhance their decision-making abilities and improve their clinical results, regardless of where they practice. A globally-focused IME program can translate the latest therapeutic advances and techniques into actionable items for HCPs in all regions. This, in turn, improves clinical decisions all over the world. For supporters and learners, IME plays an essential role in the global effort to continually improve patient outcomes.