Being a medical student is demanding but it opens huge opportunities. The skills, experience and determination you develop at medical school could help people around the world affected by natural disasters, war or epidemics. And you can start to have an impact before you finish studying – your efforts can help MSF deliver life-saving care in over 60 countires while you are still in university.

Why not get involved with the Friends of MSF?

Friends of MSF are student groups from the UK and Ireland which raise awareness of the plight of our patients and our Access to Essential Medicine campaign. They also help raise funds so that we can continue our work around the world.

“Being a part of the Sheffield Friends of MSF (or Sheffield MSF Society) has been a brilliant experience. MSF, being one the main reasons for my joining med school, has been very supportive of the society.

Participants warm up ahead of a Friends of MSF charity run 2011 organised by over 300 students and staff from London universities and other universities across South East England.

Participants warm up for a Friends of MSF charity run in 2011, organised by over 300 students and staff from London universities and other universities across South East England, © Amaresh Ray

"It has been such a pleasure being able to arrange events where speakers from MSF come and share their experience, as well as events to fundraise for MSF's work.

"Also, I got to meet people with the same interest, which has brought new friendships.”

Soren Kudsk-Iversen – Sheffield University

It is possible to arrange for a returned MSF doctor to come and give a talk at your hospital or university.

To request a speaker please contact pam.o'

How can I work for MSF after my studies?

As a medical student perhaps you may have thought of spending some of your career working in the developing world. MSF is always recruiting experienced doctors for aid work overseas.

You will need to have at least two years at SHO level, or one year post F2, before you are ready to work with us. But it’s never too early to start thinking about building up the right kind of experience and qualifications.

Aid work is not for everyone. It can be stressful, demanding and complex. You won’t get rich and you’ll be away from your friends and family. But for those that choose it, the rewards vastly outweigh the inconveniences.

“Working with MSF is what being a doctor is really about – you are literally saving the lives of desperately ill people every day.”

Simon Burling, GP with MSF experience in Sudan and Somalia.

How qualified do I have to be before I can work with MSF?

To work with MSF, you need to have completed two years at SHO level and we strongly recommend you hold a Diploma in Tropical Medicine from either London or Liverpool school of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (or equivalent). Contact details are below:

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM):
Diploma in tropical nursing

Keppel Street
London WC1E 7HT
Switchboard: 44 (0)20 7636 8636
Fax: 44 (0)20 7436 5389

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM):
Diploma in Tropical Medicine & Hygiene (DTM&H)
Diploma in Tropical Nursing (DTN)

Pembroke Place
Liverpool L3 5QA
Tel: 44(0)151 705 3100
Fax: 44(0)151 705 3370

Please note that we only accept online DTMH courses taken in Glasgow or Oxford which are offered in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine if the end exam is taken and passed successfully.

What training and/or posts should I take to increase my chances of working for MSF?

Every MSF programme is different and some are disease specific. But there are certain rotations and competencies that will be useful almost anywhere, although none are mandatory.

A&E: MSF doctors need to be capable of triage under stressful conditions. Critical care skills gained in A&E can be extremely useful. Some front line experience in A&E will be useful.

Paediatrics: Children are more vulnerable than adults to disease and malnutrition, and often form the majority of MSF’s patients. Paediatrics experience is extremely helpful.

'Obs and gynae': In the developing world, obstructed labour is common. We wouldn’t ask you to perform a C-section single-handed but you should have the confidence to deal with obstetric emergencies. Obs and gynae experience in the UK will be very useful.

GP rotation: The ability to deal with all sorts of patients and a wide range of medical problems, from the serious to the psychosomatic, is essential to work with MSF. GP training can therefore be helpful.

Communicable diseases: Such as TB, HIV/AIDS, malaria and a host of other exotic diseases such as kala azar and sleeping sickness which are currently devastating developing countries.

Languages: Although it is not obligatory, extra language skills will increase your value to MSF. Languages that are particularly useful to MSF include: French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Russian.

Can I go on elective with MSF?

Unfortunately MSF does not organise student electives with our programmes overseas. There are several reasons for this.

Firstly, it is not possible to guarantee the supervisory component required by your academic institution.

Furthermore, many of the places where MSF works are unstable and unsuitable. Finally, even when MSF is working in a stable, non-conflict location, MSF expatriate doctors need to be fully trained and capable of teaching others, rather than requiring supervision themselves.

However, we do recommend that medical students, who want to go on to work with MSF, try to spend their elective period working in the developing world.

Whether or not you spend you elective in a resource-poor country, you need to show you have some experience of life in the developing world.

The following organisation may be able to provide you with useful information on electives overseas: or worktheworld.

Find out more in the Working overseas for MSF section.

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