Planning Timeline

Planning / Chronological Guide to Global Health Experience


Penn medical students can utilize this page as a detailed guide to the global health experience from the initial idea all the way through to follow-up activities after the experience is over.  Before getting started, please read the overview.

Planning Overview

Planning an international experience means investigating the opportunities (those found on this website or others that you may identify on your own), making inquiries, networking, and finalizing projects and logistics. All international activity should be registered with The Center for Global Health, whether or not it meets funding or credit criteria.  It is essential that students plan activities that are appropriate for their level of training and experience.  See below for important considerations regarding clinical activities, health, and safety.

Note:  Many forms and information sheets are part of the process.  All those referenced on this webpage, including a printable chronological planning checklist, can be found on the Forms Page. 

Clinical Activity/Special Considerations:  MS1/2 students are not qualified for clinical activity in which they could be exposed to blood and body fluids.  Regardless of medical school year, students must never agree to engage in activities at a global health site that they would not be qualified for at Penn Medicine.  MS3/4 students who are qualified and approved by The Center for Global Health (CGH) for clinical work and who could be exposed to blood/body fluids must review PEP instructions and have a reliable source of PEP drugs (see last item in "Pre-Travel Section).  If the planned experience could include phlebotomy, IV placement, para- or thoracentesis, and/or lumbar puncture, the student must also complete ITD357 and a phlebotomy log before departure.  Currently, the only pre-approved site for such work is the Botswana clinical elective arranged by lottery.  To propose any other clinical location, at least four months before the planned experience, students must make an appointment with the The Center for Global Health (CGH) office to propose the activity.  The scope of activities and background of the onsite supervisor/mentor (i.e. CV) are essential. 

Health and Safety:  Global Health experiences may present risks to your health and safety.  Carefully review the U.S. State Department's consular information sheets for the country/ies you will be visiting and pay special attention to crime and security sections.  For example, many Penn students pursue experiences in Guatemala and these experiences can be very rewarding.  However, the crime rate in many areas of Guatemala is extremely high and, although these events are rare, Penn medical students have been victims of theft and assault. 

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12-6 Months Before Planned Departure

  1. Submit a planning form to The Center for Global Health (CGH) by February 1 to indicate that you are considering a global health experience  -- vague ideas/plans are sufficient for this form.  Timely submission is required to reserve funding.
  2. Explore opportunities on the CGH website (and beyond).  Pay close attention to all posted deadlines.
    Note: Clinical experiences demand more advance planning than non-clinical experiences.   
  3. Check out the CGH opportunity pages where you can find student reports following the opportunity description: 
  4. Research region and country of interest.
  5. Visit Department of State Travel Warnings webpage. If there is a travel warning for your destination, we cannot support travel to that location and advise you to select another country. 
  6. Review Consular Information Sheet for country/ies you will be visiting; pay special attention to crime and security sections. 
  7. Students interested in the Botswana-UPenn medicine elective must attend the mandatory information sessions that are announced via email in the late fall.  Invitations to submit lottery forms are contingent on attendance. 
  8. Consider the finances:  See funding and link pages of the CGH website, to see what kind of support you can expect and/or apply for: 
  9. Obtain or update your passport (US citizens passport information) and check out visa entry/exit requirements for your destination/s.
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6-3 Months Before Planned Departure

  1. Thoroughly review requirements of CGH registration forms and travel advance process. 
  2. Review all information on CGH Travel Page.
  3. Review CDC's Traveler's Health webpage.
  4. Identify a viable activity and mentor/supervisor and establish the means for ongoing communications regarding all details.  You are required to obtain confirmation from host site mentor or representative on official stationery or via official email (sent directly to, specifying the start and end dates for experience and detailed scope of activity.  This must be submitted with your registration form in order to obtain funding and/or credit. 
  5. Qualified students interested in clinical experiences (other than Botswana-UPenn medicine elective) with potential exposure to blood/body fluids must schedule a meeting with The Center for Global Health to obtain approval for plan before proceeding.
  6. Work with mentor/supervisor to obtain:
    • Recommendations for housing, travel, and logistics
    • Advice on best way to handle your finances vis a vis credit cards, checks, cash, etc.
    • Advice on mobile phone and Internet communications for emergencies and general communication.  Note:  Mobile phone access for sending and receiving emergency calls is required.
  7. At least 3 months before planned departure, schedule a visit with Student Health Services (SHS) by calling 215-746-3535, press option 1 to speak to a nurse, Check SHS form for details. 

3 Months - 1 Week Before Planned Departure

  1. Research airfares to get economically-priced tickets.  See CGH advice.
  2. Check on visa requirements and obtain, if needed: 
  3. Visit the Penn International SOS website to review benefits and print out membership card - via this link This benefit is provided at no cost to anyone in the Penn community traveling for Penn-related purposes like your pre-approved global health experience.
  4. Register your travel plans with the US State Department (only accessible to US citizens)
  5. Register your travel plans with Penn's Global Activities Registry (GAR).  This is mandatory -- at the end of the GAR registration process, please print a screen shot, that includes your flight arrangements, and attach it to the hard copy of your Registration Form that you will submit to CGH.
  6. If planning a clinical experience in a low-resource area that will include procedures, you must complete the ITD 357 Risk Reduction Procedures course at the Simulation Center.  Contact Helene Weinberg to get registered via OASIS. 
  7. All students required to take ITD357 must also complete 10 supervised phlebotomies in the UPHS system 1-3 weeks before departure and submit completed log form.  
  8. Students participating in the Botswana clinical elective or other clinical electives in low-resource areas must view mandatory videos for these clinical experiences and submit a form documenting viewing. Please access videos on this video page of our website and the documentation form on our forms page.
  9. Review the scope of your health insurance coverage and obtain additional coverage as needed
  10. Complete and submit Registration forms and be sure you are enrolled in Direct Deposit to receive travel funds.
  11. Fill all prescriptions provided by SHS, including post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), if indicated.


  1. Stay in touch! 
    • Program emergency phone numbers in your local mobile phone (be sure to include ISOS).
    • Send local mobile phone # to emergency contacts.
    • If you have any problems or concerns related to your global health experience, do not hesitate to contact the CGH office – via email, phone (215-898-0848). 
  2. If you need health advice or feel you need medical evacuation or security evacuation, contact International SOS (see Emergency Contacts) & have your Penn membership # (11BSGC000012) handy.
  3. Save original receipts/boarding passes while traveling
  4. If involved in clinical procedures (those presented in ITD 357):
    • always utilize appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
    • maintain a log of all procedures performed/assisted in
    • In the event of a potential exposure to bloodborne pathogens, follow instructions for PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) and report incident to your local mentor/supervisor and to Penn Infectious Disease (ID) and CGH.  Follow up, as instructed by ID physician.
  5. Ask mentor/supervisor to complete and submit Evaluation Form (on your performance).  This is a requirement for all students other than those engaged in the Botswana-UPenn medicine elective (MED 760).
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1-2 Weeks After

  1. Complete Global Health Experience Report and Questionnaire and submit to The Center for Global Health
  2. Submit completed Procedures Log to The Center for Global Health if you had a clinical experience
  3. Follow The Center for Global Health instructions (you will receive these after completing items #1 & 2 above) to reconcile travel advance and obtain any balance due
  4. Verify that your supervisor/mentor has submitted the Evaluation Form to Academic Programs/Registrar 

12 Weeks After

  1. If you were in a TB-endemic country (most are -- check World Health Organization information), obtain PPD or submit TB symptom check at Student Health Services 12 weeks after the end of your experience
  2. If recommended by ID physician, follow up to obtain serologies for bloodborne pathogens

Up to 1 Year After

Up to 1 year post travel, schedule a visit with Student Health Services (and remind staff of your travel) if you experience severe symptoms such as fever, prolonged cough, weight loss, diarrhea, abdominal pain, bleeding, unusual rashes, etc.

Last updated:  January 13, 2016

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