The Columbia General Surgery Residency has recently developed a unique program for residents to go on international electives and practice surgery in developing countries. These international opportunities are currently available to 4th year residents during their 7-8 week elective rotation. The international elective is designed as a collaborative exchange in which culture, knowledge, and skill in both clinical and research arenas are shared between the residents, faculty, and medical institutions of both Columbia University and the host country. Residents are exposed to the beauty of exotic countries and cultures, learn to practice surgery in technology- and resource-limited hospitals, and gain perspective on the effects of limited health-care access on patients in developing countries. This is truly an invaluable opportunity for any doctor-in-training.
International rotations primarily involve clinical experiences. Residents participate as team members in pre- and post-operative care of surgical patients, in surgery clinics, and in the operating room. Residents are supervised primarily by faculty at the collaborating institution, but may also be accompanied by a Columbia faculty member interested in international medicine. Residents are also involved in the training of local students, residents, and healthcare workers when appropriate. This experience is fully funded by the Department of Surgery and residents continue to receive their regular salary during the course of the elective.
Residents have currently gone on electives in 7 countries — Brazil, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Korea, India, Israel, and Haiti. Please use the map above or the links on the left to learn more about the resident experiences at each of these locations. Other sites being evaluated for rotations include South Africa and the Philippines. Sites for electives are considered based on resident safety, clinical exposure, faculty oversight, institutional relationship with Columbia University, and language translation availability. Several Columbia residents also formed relationships with relief organizations providing medical care in Haiti following the devastating earthquake there.