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ss triple helix - summer 2002,  The Medics' Guide to Work and Electives around the World (Book Review)

The Medics' Guide to Work and Electives around the World (Book Review)

The Medics' Guide to Work and Electives around the World - Mark Wilkinson - Arnold 2000 - £14.99 Pb 480 pp ISBN 0340760982

This is a book that should prove to be of great value to students or junior doctors looking for ideas about electives or work overseas - in the developed or developing world. It is full of useful information. Users are encouraged to contribute further ideas and updates on places visited with the tempting offer of a £200 prize for so doing.

Divided into 3 sections, the first talks about 'Getting ready' but the last is no more than an appendix containing the addresses of nongovernmental organizations (CMF included) and embassies in the UK, USA and Australia. There is a helpful summary of travel vaccinations and a list of organisations that might contribute funds to the trip. Website and email addresses are given for most embassies, but not for the individual NGOs and hospitals. This may be deliberate. The author suggests that it is better to write a personal letter, as this is considered 'more polite' in many cultures, than to make initial contact by email. Furthermore, the recipient of a letter is less likely to dispose of this than an electronic offering.

By far the longest section is on 'Destinations'. Countries get a very brief introduction (population, language, capital, currency and international telephone code) and a slightly longer comment on the medical scene, need for visas, climate and crime rates. The amount of information given relates more to the popularity of a destination than its size or importance. In some instances there are simply lists of medical schools or hospitals. In others, eg Gibraltar, places are mentioned but addresses are not given, which will prove frustrating.

Countries are grouped under continents, which is fine if you have a good grasp of geography, but where exactly are the Maldives? The author could take a leaf out of the new edition of Operation World that now lists countries in alphabetical order. Not every country is mentioned, Yemen, Somalia and the Central Asian Republics for example. The index lists countries but not hospitals and European countries are found under 'Europe' rather than their own names. Myanamar is still called Burma.

Throughout the book the writer is very even handed in his comments about mission hospitals, most of which he feels offer an 'excellent' elective experience. In one place he comments, 'they are more efficiently run …and often have a better social life'! Of Kisiizi (Uganda), he writes, 'you will have to work hard' and it is 'very Christian but no-one holds anything against non-Christians'. I discovered one which requires the applicant to get in touch with me to be interviewed to ensure that he/she really is a Christian.

All in all, this book is a good buy but watch out for the new edition of CMF's own guide on the subject.

Reviewed by:
Peter Armon
CMF Overseas Support Secretary

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