Volunteer positions and internships in the health professions


One of the best ways to learn about a career is by active engagement – volunteering or working in the field of interest. The health professions are service based careers so passion for working with people and the ability to communicate with people from different backgrounds and cultures are essential qualities in care providers. Getting involved in the community around you can be rewarding in many ways. There are numerous opportunities to volunteer in health-related settings in the Bryn Mawr area. Summer internships in clinical settings and research laboratories also provide another way where you can work alongside professionals in the field. Keep in mind that your undergraduate years are a time to sample and explore your areas of interest. Do not feel as if everything you participate in must be healthcare related; every activity is valuable if you have the interest and passion to pursue it.

Before applying to medical school you will need to gain some experience working in a clinical setting. The Office of Health Professions Advising and the Civic Engagement Office (CEO) maintain a directory of health care volunteer opportunities in the greater Bryn Mawr and Philadelphia area. Read over the healthcare volunteer blog and then feel free to discuss possible volunteer opportunities with the prehealth advisor.

Civic Engagement Office (CEO)

New college students may want to participate in one of the many established community service programs through the Civic Engagement Office (CEO). For example, the CEO sponsors several tutoring and mentoring programs for K-12 students at schools and community centers throughout the area.  In addition, the CEO organizes "Saturdays of Service" during the academic year for students to participate in a half-day of service with a local organization.  The CEO maintains a database of local volunteer opportunities and a library of interesting and useful publications for students seeking volunteer opportunities. Students volunteering in the greater Philadelphia area are also eligible for partial reimbursement of their transportation costs to and from their service site.

Career and Professional Development Office

The Career and Professional Development (CPD) Office fosters career exploration and professional development while supporting students as they pursue post-collegiate employment. The CPD also provides many resources to help students find summer internships, and the career counselors will assist with resumes, cover letters, and mock interviews. Of particular interest to prehealth students is the CPD’s extern program. Bryn Mawr  College alumnae invite current students to shadow them at work during winter or spring break. This provides students with a firsthand glimpse of careers of interest and can help students immensely as they make future career decisions. Visit the CPD in the Campus Center to fully explore their resources.

Health Care Opportunities Abroad

Many organizations sponsor service trips where students can learn about health care delivery in other countries or language immersion programs that include clinical shadowing opportunities. Below are links to some organizations and databases to help you research international opportunities.

Note: It is essential to research thoroughly any international service program. You need to critically assess international programs to evaluate their safety, incurred costs, and housing and transportation arrangements. Look for references about international programs before making any deposits or commitments. Many international service programs require participants to pay all of their own expenses, and some have additional “tuition” or “program fees.”

You should also review the guidelines from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) regarding the level of involvement  for premedical and predental students in providing patient care during clinical experiences abroad.

AAMC Guidelines for Guidelines for Premedical and Medical Students Providing Patient Care During Clinical Experiences Abroad

ADEA Guidelines for Predental Students Providing Patient Care During Clinical Experiences Abroad

Opportunities for International Service

Databases and Annotated Listings of Positions and Programs

International Healthcare Opportunities Clearinghouse (IHOC)
Sponsored by the Lamar Soutter Library at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. A searchable database of both volunteer and paid positions throughout the world.

International Health Resources
Annotated listing of international health sites from UC Berkeley Public Health Library

International Medical Volunteers Association
General information on how to become an international volunteer as well as links to hundreds of volunteer opportunities

Organizations providing opportunities in international health care

Child Family Health International
Service-abroad opportunity for students in Quito, Ecuador or in the rural Himalayas in India.

Unite for Sight Volunteer Program
Program sites located in Ghana, Honduras, and India.  Volunteers receive training and will then screen patients for operable cataract surgeries, distribute eyeglasses and conduct eye health education in local schools and community centers.

The American Medical Student Association has formed a formal partnership with the International Federation of Medical Students’ Association to work on global health issues. Through these organizations there are opportunities for medical students to serve abroad.