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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Cross-Sectional Survey of Former International Emergency Medicine Fellows From 2010-1019


Introduction: International emergency medicine is a new subspecialty within emergency medicine. International emergency medicine (EM) fellowships have been in existence for more than 10 years, but data is limited on the experiences of the fellows. Our goal in this study was to understand the fellowship experience.

Methods: The study employed a cross-sectional survey in which participants were asked about their demographics, fellowship program, and advanced degree. Participants consisted of former fellows who completed the fellowship between 2010-19. The survey consisted of both closed and open-ended questions to allow for further explanation of former fellows’ experience. Descriptive analysis was conducted on the quantitative survey data while content analysis was conducted to ascertain salient themes from the open-ended questions.

Results: We contacted 71 former fellows, of whom 40 started and 36 completed surveys, for a 51% response rate (55.6% women). Two-year fellowships predominated, with 69.4% of respondents. Prior to fellowship, a subset of fellows spoke the native languages of their service sites: French, Spanish, Haitian Creole, Mandarin, or Kiswahili. Half the respondents spent 26-50% of their fellowship in field work, with 83.3% of institutions providing direct funding for this component. Many respondents stated a need for further institutional support (money or infrastructure) for fieldwork and mentoring. Non-governmental organizations comprised 29.7% of respondents’ work partners, while 28.6% were with academic institutions in country, focused mostly on education, health systems development, and research. The vast majority (92%) of respondents continued working in global EM, with the majority based in American academic institutions. Those who did not cited finances and lack of institutional support as main reasons.

Conclusion: This study describes the fellow experience in international EM. The majority of fellows completed a two-year fellowship with 26-50% of their time spent in fieldwork with 83.3% of institutions providing funding. The challenges in pursuing a long-term career in global EM included the cost of international work, inadequate mentorship, and departmental funding.

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