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Fam Med. 2012 Jun;44(6):404-7.

Injuries occurring in medical students during international medical rotations: a strategy toward maximizing safety.

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Division of Infectious Diseases, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL 60611, USA.


The number of medical students traveling to nations outside the United States is steadily increasing. The Association of American Medical Colleges graduation questionnaire notes an increase from 2,838 students in 2001 to 3,799 students in 2009, the last year for which information is available. The risk of having any type of illness during international travel approaches 50%. Up to 19% of students will seek medical care on their return to the United States for illnesses. Most illnesses are benign and self limited. However, when deaths do occur, the leading causes are motor vehicle crashes and drownings. If air medical evacuation occurs, the most likely cause is an injury event. The authors review the literature to determine the risk of and type of illnesses and injuries suffered by travelers while overseas, especially medical volunteers. We describe the major categories of illness and injury risk and propose reasonable risk reduction and prevention strategies for prevention for injury, a relatively neglected area. We recommend that medical schools provide pre-travel training that includes injury prevention so that students are prepared not only for illness prevention but also for injury prevention. A focus on injury prevention, especially from motor vehicle crashes and drowning, is warranted given their role in causing death and serious injury to traveling students.

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