Reshaping the Role of Medical Students in Global Health
Health is a recognised necessity, both as a human right and a crucial factor in the alleviation of poverty. It has served as the basis for overseas interventions in various contexts, with its interpretation and subsequent consequences evolving through history. In the 19th and early 20th century, it contributed to the moral justification of colonialism. Imperialist activities were condoned through the provision of the supposedly superior Western lifestyle, sanitation, and medicine. Following the liberation of colonised nations, developmental aid became a new avenue for the pursuit of neo-colonial agendas. An increased awareness of the iatrogenic harm international volunteers often inflict has led to a paradigm shift in humanitarian medicine. The volunteer is no longer the omnipotent centre but should aim to support indigenous staff with cultural humility.
This article explores the harms of previous models of global health, the movement towards decolonised humanitarianism, and reflections on the role of the medical student through a personal experience in rural Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland.