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Students in the Global Health Scholars Program at Penn State College of Medicine traveled to Ghana in June 2016. Here, a group of students is pictured during a traditional welcoming ceremony conducted by a Ghanaian village chief, who is pictured at front with Ghanaian men on either side of him and the students behind them. They are outside on a porch.

Global Health

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Changing Lives Around the World

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Students in the Penn State College of Medicine Global Health Scholars Program traveled to Ghana in 2016. A student is pictured here speaking with a Ghanaian woman and her child.

Penn State College of Medicine provides educational opportunities for students interested in international health, including challenges that commonly present a greater burden to disadvantaged populations.

Through the Global Health Center, MD students can participate in the Global Health Scholars Program, which offers immersive trips to a number of partner sites around the world. Medical students can also take fourth-year electives focusing on caring for underserved populations in the U.S. and abroad.

Master of Public Health and Doctor of Public Health students have options in international health as well, including earning a graduate certificate in global health and participating in the Global Health Exchange Program, which allows for international and domestic learning experiences.

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Our Global Health Programs


Global Health Pathway, International (MD Students) Global Health Scholars

A stylized world map with a Penn State lion crest in the general vicinity of Pennsylvania, with dotted lines reaching out to standard GPS location icons near Peru, Taiwan, Senegal, Ghana and Zambia.

Students accepted into the Global Health Scholars Program (GHSP) take two immersive month-long trips to one of our partner sites:

  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • Croatia
  • Ecuador
  • Ghana
  • Nepal
  • Vietnam
  • Zambia

The first trip is primarily an introduction to the community, during which you’ll develop a community health project. During the second trip, occurring in your senior year, you’ll participate in clinical care at the same location.

You’ll receive pre-trip safety sessions, in-country medical education specific to the site, and several sessions by our faculty on global- and community health-related issues. About a quarter of first-year students apply, and 80 percent of those are typically accepted.

Learn more about the Global Health Scholars Program.

See a photo gallery from previous Global Health Scholars trips.

Global Health Pathway, Domestic (MD students) Health Equity Scholars

Students accepted into the Health Equity Scholars Program (HESP) work with community partners and marginalized patients in Pennsylvania in the following track of their choosing:

  • Harrisburg Scholars
  • Nese Rural Scholars

HESP is a 4-year longitudinal program that seeks to equip the next generation of health equity champions in medicine.

Dependent on the track chosen, there will be a summer experience between your first and second year of medical school focused on introducing you to health equity for your community of interest, during which you’ll develop a community health project. During the second immersive month experience, occurring in your senior year, you’ll participate in clinical care at the same location and continue to build on your community health project. 

You’ll receive medical education specific to your track, and several sessions by our faculty on global- and community health-related issues, as well as law and advocacy topics. You will be immersed in the community you choose to serve as early as your first year of medical school. Ongoing mentorship in the care of marginalized populations will also be provided. Each year, 6-8 students will be selected through a competitive process for the Health Equity Scholars Program.

Learn more about the Health Equity Scholars Program.


For MD Students: Global Health Electives

As a fourth-year medical student , you’ll have the opportunity to take electives that will give you experience caring for underserved populations, including those in other countries.

Previous electives have included:

  • Pediatric cardiology in Guayaquil, Ecuador

    This program offers fourth-year students the ability to start a Pediatric Cardiology elective in Hershey and finish with two weeks participating in an open heart surgery mission at Children's Hospital in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

  • Indian Health Service work in Cherokee, North Carolina

    This is an opportunity for fourth-year students to work with a unique, underserved domestic population, engaging with a tribe that has rich history and culture, and working with a interdisciplinary team that uses an embedded model with home-based care and social support services.

Learn more about electives in Global Health.

For Public Health Students: Global Health Certificate

Master of Public Health (MPH) and Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) students have several global health experiences available through Penn State College of Medicine. The Global Health Certificate is for students who are interested in advancing their knowledge and skills in key global health competencies and can be done while pursuing an MPH or DrPH degree. The certificate requires 12 credits from two required and two elective courses.

Learn more about the global health certificate

Global Health Case Competition

Each year, Penn State assembles an interprofessional team comprised of students from the College of Medicine, Dickinson Law and University Park campuses to participate in The Emory Morningside Global Health Case Competition. The competition poses a hypothetical public health crisis for teams to solve. Each team must successfully work together to create and present a comprehensive plan that addresses the problem. Presentations are judged by a panel of experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), academia, state health departments, private industries and nongovernmental organizations.

The Penn State team consists of up to six students from an array of degree programs such as public health sciences, medicine, nursing, engineering, biology, business and law. To participate, interested graduate and undergraduate students must apply each fall.

View details on the Global Health Case Competition


For All Students: University Global Health Resources

For Public Health Students: Global Health Exchange Partnership

Through the Global Health Exchange Program, each summer, students in the Master of Public Health and Doctor of Public Health programs have the opportunity to travel abroad to India, Ghana, Taiwan and other international sites to study public health topics.

These experiences can fulfill the programs' practicum requirements.

Penn State students who are unable to travel globally have the opportunity to participate in domestic, global-health-focused learning opportunities.

Learn more about the Global Health Exchange Program

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Learn More About Our Global Health Programs

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Global Health Center

Established in 2008, under the leadership of founding director Benjamin Fredrick, MD, the Global Health Center at Penn State College of Medicine is an interdisciplinary center that provides organization and oversight for the medical center's educational, service, community research and clinical care activities in global health.

Contact the Global Health Center

Public Health International Initiatives

Through a curriculum in international health for public health students, the International Initiatives program seeks to recognize global health disparities and discover promising health care solutions through applied coursework and meaningful international field experiences. The program is designed to provide a framework in which students explore public health issues from a global and culturally competent perspective.

Contact International Initiatives

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What's New in Global Health