Integrated Science Course (ISC)

An information session was held on March 15th and you can view the PowerPoint for more information about the ISC: 

ISC Info Session – 3-15-17 – PPT 


ISC: Global Health

Responding to a growing need in US academia for health care professionals equipped with global expertise in local and international settings, the Vanderbilt University Institute for Global Health and the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine have developed an immersion course for third- and fourth-year medical students. Students who participate in the ISC: Global Health will gain a deep understanding of diseases in resource-constrained settings through the lens of population science, epidemiology, public health, health systems, health policy, and other issues related to international development. You will have the opportunity to hone foreign language skills and to develop lasting partnerships in a cross-cultural setting with our international colleagues.

Important Information about the Course


What students say about their ISC experience

We encourage you to learn more about the ISC: Global Health through previous students’ experiences. These short quotes from students will provide insight into their global health experiences.


Kelly-Pekala-2016-150x150.jpg“Primeros Pasos is a wonderful primary care clinic serving the children and families of the Palajunoj Valley in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Working with Guatemalan med students, physicians, nutritionists, social workers, and laboratory technicians, as well as U.S. medical students from other institutions was a rich learning experience in providing inter-disciplinary, cross-cultural care. I highly recommend this rotation for students interested in pediatrics in underserved settings, international diversity in the culture of medicine, community/acute care pediatrics, public health promotion, nutrition, pediatric infectious diseases, and maternal-child health.” -Irene Mathieu, 2015


Katharine-Callaghan-Honduras-2016-150x150.jpg“Santa Rosa de Copán is a beautiful, tranquil city that is very easy to live in.  However, by far my favorite thing about the experience were the people I met, both inside and outside of the hospital.  I learned so much from my colleagues over this month that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.” -anonymous, 2015

“This month spent at the Hospital Regional del Occidente in Santa Rosa de Copan was a fantastic experience. The faculty on-site are enthusiastic about teaching, the patients come in with all types of pathology (many of which aren’t seen in the United States), and the surrounding town is a peaceful place to live with friendly people. Plus, you won’t find a better way to practice your medical Spanish!” -anonymous, 2015 “My time in Copán was one of the most meaningful experiences of medical school for me. The opportunity to experience a different medical culture and take part in patient care in the LMIC setting has reminded me what a privilege it is to get to be a part of the medical profession. I’m returning from the experience with a new vision for the breadth of need worldwide and fresh motivation to learn all I can with the hope of helping in some small way to meet that need.” -Katharine Callaghan, 2016


4_photo4_upload1-150x150.jpg“Life in Amman, Jordan was truly an immersion: fast-paced and rich in culture with rare and unique disease processes. It was a privilege to work within their healthcare systems and an unforgettable learning experience.” -Hannah Johnson, 2015“Jordan offers a unique clinical and cultural experience to students interested in expanding their knowledge about how health care is delivered in the Middle East.” – Annette Ilg, 2015




“I had a wonderful time in Lwala learning about systems of care in rural Kenya and engaging with both clinicians and patients in the field. I think it would be a worthwhile experience for any medical student, regardless of career interests.” -anonymous, 2015 “Living and working at Lwala taught me a different way of thinking about medicine, in an environment so different from a large American academic health center. Learning opportunities like that require full immersion in the community. It was an integral and invaluable part of my medical training.” -Jennifer Grasch, 2016


Maria-de-Lourdes-Nicaragua-2015.jpg“My trip to Nicaragua is one that will stay with me forever. My horizons just became that much broader.” -Maria de Lourdes, 2015

“The global health ISC is one of the best two or three courses I’ve taken at VUMS. With the possible exception of the Morgan service at Vandy, I don’t think I’ve had a better clinical experience. You see pathologies that you’d rarely, if ever, see at Vanderbilt, and practicing medicine here, even if only for 1 month, will change how you see the practice of medicine back in the States. In short, it’s a very valuable course.” -Pierce Trumbo, 2015



Course logistics

In this month-long clinical rotation, students are placed at Vanderbilt’s partner sites in various locations around the world including, but not limited to, Central America, Jordan, and Kenya. Once on-site, students participate in a variety of rotations ranging from one to four weeks, which are designed based on both the student’s interests and the mentorship and resources available at the site.

During rotation, students complete weekly online modules that introduce key concepts in global health and related foundational sciences. Foundational science topics include population health science, public health, pathology and pathophysiology (for both infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases), nutrition science, epidemiology, social sciences, behavioral sciences, health systems sciences, and microbiology (other foundational science areas could be covered depending on the site). Additional health and developmental issues that span nations and cultures, and which require collaborative, partnership-based action, are highlighted.

The course is taught through interactive digital lectures, readings from peer-reviewed journals, on-site exposures to patients, health systems, and communities, and distance mentoring sessions with Vanderbilt faculty. In the month prior to departure, students complete pre-departure online modules as well as attend a pre-departure orientation session to prepare them for immersion.

Students may participate in an immersion block at one of our five sites (described in detail below) in August, October, or February of their 3rd or 4th year of medical school. However, if students have a compelling reason to participate in another month or site, they may propose an alternate site/month (see below).

Alternate Site/Month

In addition to our five core sites, students who are familiar with another site that offers a rotation and global experience that better meets their career interests and goals can participate in an “Alternate Site” ISC. This is also a great option for students interested in going to a Spanish-speaking site but only have a beginner-level knowledge of the language. More information about the alternative site/month option can be found below in the section on various sites.


Students are responsible for the full cost of their ISC course, including but not limited to airfare, room & board, ground transportation, vaccinations, visas, and other expenses. However, internal and external funding opportunities are available to help offset the costs of an ISC. VIGH has limited funds and we encourage students to start exploring early for additional funding opportunities as needed. Be aware of varying scholarship deadlines; VIGH’s annual online scholarship application priority deadline is February 1 of each year for students traveling in that calendar year (Example: February 1, 2018 application due date for any travel in the 2018 calendar year).


No holidays or vacation may be taken during your registered ISC course.  Please refer to the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Academic Calendar for specific dates you should be present at your site location.


The 2017-2018 Global Health ISC application is now available. Before clicking on “apply now,” please take time to review the five sites that are currently offered as ISC locations and carefully consider which locations will best meet your career interests and goals. CLICK HERE TO APPLY!

Additional Resources

Current Sites

Quick Overview of ISC: Global Health Opportunities

Quetzaltenango (Xela), Guatemala

DD-Women-making-beads-225x300.jpgGeneral Information

Students in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala will work with the Primeros Pasos clinic. Primeros Pasos is a rural community clinic that was founded with a focus on maternal and child health, but has since expanded to include nutrition, pediatrics, primary care, health education, and community heath. This ISC clinical rotation introduces students to diseases and community health challenges unique to rural Central America. Students gain considerable experience in pediatric primary care, including chronic malnutrition, diarrheal diseases, and upper respiratory infections, as well as public health outreach. Unique aspects to this rural clinic site include day trips to surrounding local communities with Primeros Pasos’ mobile clinic, volunteering with activities outside the clinic, and an environment to hone one’s medial Spanish language skills. Other options at this site include coordinating a clinical rotation with the Moore Center for Pediatric Surgery in Guatemala City.  The Moore Center is a private pediatric surgery center serving rural and vulnerable populations.  Students working here will have the opportunity to learn about surgery in a pre- and post-op clinical setting. A minimum professional proficiency of Spanish language is a requirement for this site.  The Moore Center is a unique model for health care, with 14-16 surgical care teams from the US working at the clinic for 1wk/yr. The clinic is a state of art facility with patients coming for service from all over Guatemala. Guatemala City is an urban center with higher crime rates than surrounding rural areas.  All travelers should refer to the US Department of State for specific travel warnings and information.

Site Requirements

Students in Quetzaltenango will be exposed to Spanish language and Central American culture.  A minimum professional proficiency of Spanish language is a requirement for this site (State Department Language Level Descriptions).  K’iche’, a Mayan language, is the predominant local language at Quetzaltenango. Lodging for students at Primeros Pasos is coordinated with Vanderbilt and Primeros Pasos representatives.  Accommodation options include: homestays, hostels, or hotels. Homestays are most the economic option, generally $150-200/week with meals. Students should budget between $600-900 for airfare, $15-20/day for food, and between $200-500/week if opting for a hotel or hostel.  Internet service is usually available.  Students are also required to pay a $300 volunteer fee, which the site uses to help defray the costs of hosting students in the clinic. Primeros Pasos Promotional Poster 2015

Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras


General Information

Hospital de Occidente is a rural district hospital that provides primary and specialty care in western Honduras. Here students have clinical exposure to emergency medicine, maternal and child health, non-communicable diseases, neglected tropical diseases, pediatrics, primary care, public health, and surgery. Unique features of this site include opportunities to work with the Central American Medical Outreach (CAMO), non-profit organization in Copan, and to learn more about global cancer prevention, as this site is also a host for a Vanderbilt cancer epidemiology research program.

Site Requirements

Students interested in augmenting their medical Spanish are preferred– a minimum professional proficiency of Spanish at this site is recommended (State Department Language Level Definitions). Lodging options for students in Copan include hostel or apartment accommodations for around $10/day.  Vanderbilt and CAMO will help arrange transport to/from Copan to the airport in San Pedro Sula. Students should budget between $500-700 for airfare, around $50 for transport to/from airport (shared among students), and $15-20/day for lodging. Internet is usually available for students.

Amman, Jordan

General Information

The Jordan University Teaching Hospital is located in Jordan’s capital, Amman, and offers students the opportunity to learn about diseases and conditions of interest in the Middle East, particularly in the areas of genetic disorders, pediatrics, maternal and child health, chronic diseases, infectious diseases, and refugee health. Unique aspects to this ISC course include the option of rotating through a variety of hospitals and clinics, including the Al-Bashir government hospitalKing Hussein Cancer Center Hospital, and a private practice.

Site Requirements

The primary languages at this site are Arabic and English. Proficiency in Arabic is not a requirement but very helpful. Students should consider using an app or other program to practice basic Arabic phrase before going. Site accommodations include Jordan University housing, hotel lodging, or renting a room in an apartment. Internet is usually available. Cabs are a reliable mode of transportation in Amman. Students should budget between $1,200-1,500 for airfare and between $500-800/month for lodging. Jordan is a Muslim country and conservative dress is required for female students working at this site, however, wearing a hijab is not required.

Lwala, Kenya

Students are encouraged to consider staying at Lwala for more than one month. Options for additional months include an AE and/or Research Immersion project.

General Information

4_photo-300x187.jpg Students at Lwala Community Alliancewill have rotations with clinic staff at the Lwala Community Hospital. This rural community hospital provides 33,000 patient visits each year with clinic staff providing HIV services and care to over 1,000 patients. Lwala’s healthcare foci include HIV care, maternal and child health, neglected tropical diseases, nutrition, pediatrics, primary care, and public health. Unique aspects to this ISC site include student engagement in community outreach activities like water and sanitation (WASH) trainings, community gardening initiatives, community youth meetings, and health education.  Students can also visit other clinics during patient referral trips. Research projects can also be integrated within the ISC course.

Site Requirements


English and Kiswahili are the official languages of Kenya, with numerous indigenous languages spoken throughout the country (the local language of Lwala is Luo). A language proficiency is not required for this site. Dress at Lwala is conservative and business casual (i.e. slacks, long skirts, blouses, and polos).  Scrubs are acceptable once or twice each week for nursing or medical students. Room and board for students is arranged by Lwala Community Alliance at the guest house located on the clinic grounds. Internet is available on site, but service outages frequently occur. Travel to and from Lwala can take time due poor road conditions and Lwala’s rural geography. Students fly into Kisumu and are met by a driver from Lwala for the 3 hour drive to Lwala. Students should budget between $1,500-2,500 for airfare, $125/week for room and board, $120 for a taxi to/from Lwala from Kisumu, and $200 for personal expenses. Students are required to complete Lwala’s online orientation modules and sign the Lwala Community Alliance Volunteer Agreement Form before departure.

Leon, Nicaragua

General Information

Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua (UNAN-León) and its affiliated teaching hospital Hospital Escuela Oscar Danilo Rosales Arguell (HEODRA) serve as the primary health science training facility in Nicaragua and as a host site for ISC students. These sites offer a vibrant learning environment in a resource-limited setting. Students gain clinical experience in areas such as cardiology, emergency medicine, neglected tropical diseases, non-communicable diseases, pediatrics, primary care, surgery, and public health. Unique aspects to site include working at the HIV clinic and public health outreach to remote areas of Nicaragua.

Site Requirements

Students in León will be exposed to Spanish language and Central American culture.  A minimum professional proficiency of Spanish language at this site is recommended (State Department Language Level Descriptions) León is approximately 2 hours by car from the airport in Managua. In León, students stay in a hotel next to the hospital, which includes breakfast and internet. Students should budget around $50 for transport to/from airport, around $20-30/day for lodging, and $600-$800 for airfare.

Alternate Site and/or Month

General Information

In addition to our five core sites, students who are familiar with another site that offers a rotation and global experience that better meets their career interests and goals can participate in an “Alternative Site” ISC. This section of the ISC is student-derived and student-driven. As such, students design course objectives, create a learning plan, and coordinate their site placement and supervisor. Students wishing to participate in this ISC will use this information to complete their customized Alternative Site syllabus. All students should meet with Elizabeth Rose to discuss their ISC, using a draft of the syllabus as a guide for the meeting. Students can participate in an Alternative Site ISC during any month. Recommended locations with our VIGH partners include:

  • China (Shandong University)
  • Guyana
  • Kenya (Kisumu)

Recommended sites with non-VIGH partners:

Programs with medical Spanish language training (for students with beginner-level Spanish):

Global Health ISC contact information: Elizabeth Rose