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Health Rotations and Tropical Medicine | Oaxaca and Puerto Escondido, Mexico

CFHI Mexico Health Rotations

More photos from this internship can be found here

As an intern in the state of Oaxaca, you will be immersed in the vibrant local culture while improving your Spanish proficiency, gaining experience in clinical settings, and volunteering with local NGOs.

The state of Oaxaca is one of the most ethnically varied in the nation, and despite colonization local indigenous populations  managed to maintain their language, their culture, and social organization. Yet, with all the richness in culture, the state of Oaxaca trails behind the rest of Mexico in its health and economic indicators, and faces challenges in literacy, sanitation, employment, and access to healthcare services, which are contributing factors to a significant route of migration from the state of Oaxaca to the Pacific Northwest of the US. Interns in this program will improve their cultural competency to better serve growing Mexican immigrant populations in the U.S. and other countries.

Interns start out in Oaxaca City, the state capital, which is renowned for its colonial architecture and friendly people.  Interns participate in clinical rotations at community clinics and hospitals serving low-income populations, and learn about the importance of primary care and community health education programs.  By witnessing Mexico’s three-tiered insurance system in action, interns will come away with a better understanding of how quality of care, wait times, and access to medications vary between each tier.

The small fishing town of Puerto Escondido is known for its spectacular tropical beaches, coastal lagoons, and slower pace of life.  Interns’ time here will focus on rural health issues, and tropical disease management and prevention strategies.  Interns will learn about the challenges this community faces, including as mosquito-borne illnesses, malnutrition, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, as well as persistent socio-economic issues that further complicate their access to quality healthcare services.

Unique to this program is the opportunity to visit and learn from a local midwife who has been practicing for over 60 years.

This program includes 75 hours of Spanish language classes.

Duration of Internship:

  • 10 weeks

Interns are provided with opportunities to learn about global health while imbedded in the existing health systems and social services sectors alongside local community members and champions. This internship seeks to develop students’ broad-based understanding of the interplays between disease processes, social circumstances, poverty, resiliency, geopolitical realities, historical contexts, culture, and the complexities of health and wellness. Our partner company’s expertise is in “preserving the authenticity of the community’s expertise and presenting ‘real-life’ global health, while nesting programs in gold-standard educational pedagogies and safety standards”.

Thousands of students and medical professionals have taken part in their unique programs, which foster reciprocal partnerships and empowerment in local communities. Internships are open to all students with an interest in health in an international context and is especially ideal for pre-med, pre-nursing, public health, and global health students.

Our partner company in Mexico is a global health ethics leader; as such, their programs uphold strict standards and comply with all local laws.  This program is not an episodic volunteer experience, and is not designed to provide service to those who would otherwise not have healthcare.  Therefore, the internship experience will be predominantly observational and interns should be aware that they are not to be providing direct healthcare to patients. The learning objectives for this internship, as outlined by our partner company, are:

  • Develop a larger sense of cultural competency
  • Observe and develop existing clinical skills
  • Broaden public health knowledge
  • Develop creativity in problem-solving
  • Deepen their commitment to service
  • Promote medical supply conservation

Interns begin and conclude their internships in Oaxaca City, split their internship approximately 50-50 between Oaxaca City and half in Puerto Escondido.

In Oaxaca City, a colonial city of approximately 500,000 inhabitants, interns will complete rotations in clinics, hospitals, and NGOs within the city and in the surrounding area. Interns have the opportunity to learn about pathologies diseases like malaria, dengue, Chagas, and parasites, which are prevalent in tropical areas.  Interns may also gain exposure to primary care medicine, ob/gyn, pediatrics, surgery, emergency medicine, and orthopedics, among other specialties.

In the small coastal town of Puerto Escondido (within the state of Oaxaca) interns witness firsthand the socioeconomic challenges experienced by the local community.  Interns complete rotations primarily in government-run primary care clinics.  They may also have rotations in a small hospital, and participate in public health outreach and education.  Examples of possible rotations may include emergency medicine, ob/gyn, internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery, physical therapy, speech therapy, and preventative medicine, among others.  Interns may also participate in educational outreach initiatives working to prevent and eradicate vector-borne diseases like malaria, dengue, and Chagas.

A highlight of the portion of the program based in Puerto Escondido is a visit to traditional midwife who has been practicing for over 60 years.  Interns are shown a traditional birthing room and learn about medicinal herbs and birthing techniques that have been passed down for several generations.

Activities and Tasks: This is an observation-based experience (see “About the Organization”).  Much of interns’ time will be spent shadowing physicians and healthcare providers as they work with patients during routine exams, taking medical histories, and performing procedures and surgeries.  Interns will observe patient-physician interactions, and may assist with note-taking as their language skills allow.  They may also be asked to assist with fetching and preparing supplies, and may participate in community outreach initiatives.  As time and circumstances permit, interns may have the opportunity to ask questions of medical providers and patients.

NOTE: All rotations are subject to change depending on availability and local conditions.

Spanish classes:  75 hours of Spanish language classes are built into this program, and are provided by local language schools.  Class sizes vary depending on the number of participants and their language proficiency levels.

Academic Background

  • Pre-Med, Pre-Nursing, Pre-Pharmacy, Public Health, and other Pre-health majors


  • Prior experience in healthcare settings preferred

Language Requirements

  • Basic Spanish skills required.  Conversational proficiency recommended.The internship is organized primarily in English. However, while program staff and some doctors may speak English, most interactions with patients and other staff will take place in local languages. Students are encouraged to build their health and medical terminology.

Other Requirements

  • Interns should be at least 20 years old to participate

Estimated One-Time Expenses

  • IE3Global Program Fee: $3,450
  • Host Site Fees: $5,910
  • International Travel: $700
  • Visa Fees: $0*
  • Recommended Immunizations: $200 – $700**

Estimated Monthly Expenses

  • Housing: Homestay included in host site fees
  • Food: $100 ($25/wk) for some meals
  • Local Transportation: $50 ($12.50/wk)
  • Recreation: $100 ($37.50/wk)
  • Personal Expenses: $50 ($25/wk)

Budgeting Note:   Estimated costs are based on typical internship-related costs and a modest standard of living.  Each intern’s costs will vary based on lifestyle choices (eating out vs. cooking or eating provided meals, taking taxis vs. walking or taking the bus) and recreational spending (travelling on days off, expensive hobbies, etc.).

Additional Expense Information

The Host Site Fees include:

  • Homestay arrangement
  • Two meals a day with host family
  • Language courses
  • Airport pick-up & drop-off
  • In-country orientation
  • Use of a mobile phone
  • Weekly meetings with medical director & local coordinator
  • Placement in clinical rotations & coordination of internship activities
  • Administrative costs
  • 24/7 Emergency Support

* No visa required for U.S. citizens

** Fees vary based on medical history and insurance coverage

In both Oaxaca City and Puerto Escondido, interns will stay with homestay families.  Interns may be placed in homestays with other participants (this is especially likely in Puerto Escondido) and may share a room. Two meals per day are included.

In Oaxaca City, homestays are located in a middle class residential neighborhood in the historic center of the city.  These families are located in close proximity to one another and the language school, allowing participants to walk to language classes with ease.

In Puerto Escondido, homestays are located in Bacocho and Riconada, both middle to upper class residential neighborhoods, as well as El Centro, a busy part of town where many Puerto Escondido locals reside. All families are located in close proximity to the language school, allowing participants to walk to language classes with ease, and accessible to public transportation to travel to and from clinical rotations.

Participants will be instructed on recommended transportation from homestays to clinical rotations and getting around the city at the welcome orientation.

Check out pictures from this internship.


Fall | Winter | Spring | Summer

Application Deadline

Summer: January 25
Fall: April 15
Winter: September 1
Spring: November 15

Basic Requirements

-See Qualifications/Requirements section