Participate in a 6-week interdisciplinary elective in Costa Rica

Graduate Student Participant

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Centro Interamericano para la Salud Global (Interamerican Center for Global Health) creates links with health-delivery institutions in Coto Brus, Costa Rica. Their 6-week primary care rotation focuses on many of the pressing grand challenges in the field of global health.

Set in rural Costa Rica, this unique, 6-week primary care/community rotation in Coto Brus will provide participants with insight into some of the most pressing grand challenges in the field of global health: achieving universal health care coverage, delivering healthcare in an intercultural context, and responding to the demographic and epidemiological transitions. 

This well-mentored, carefully supervised elective will provide participants with meaningful engagement with host communities, as well as group discussion sections, workshops, and reflective activities. The aim is to provide participants with fresh insight into health care challenges, while also enhancing participants’ critical thinking skills. For non-native speakers of Spanish, 8 hrs/week of classroom-based medical/clinical Spanish will enhance participants’ abilities to communicate while improving their cultural competencies. 

Elective Structure

Oversight of the elective, as well as the didactic components of the program,  are run by CISG staff, while the primary care/community rotation components are supervised by preceptors from the Costa Rican Social Security Fund, the main public healthcare delivery system in Costa Rica and one of CISG’s main on-site partners.

During the elective activities, will include:

  • Joining primary healthcare physicians, as well as nurses, dentists, pharmacists, and community health workers from the Costa Rican Social Security Fund while they deliver vital interventions that relate to promotion of health and prevention of disease, as well as address curative and rehabilitative aspects of disease and illness;
  • Participating in special projects and activities such as health promotion campaigns and communicable disease prevention projects;
  • Attending home visits with the primary health care team;
  • Contributing to active case finding with the community health worker;
  • Reflecting upon the experience as it unfolds in weekly workshops that explore the social, political, economic, legal, cultural, and environmental realities that determine community health outcomes; and
  • Sharpening Spanish language skills with a focus on medical/clinical terminology and phrases (8 hrs/week of instruction tailored to level of competence).

In sum, the elective is designed to ensure an immersive experience at a community level. 

A unique trait about this elective is the opportunity to rotate in the first bi-cultural primary healthcare unit in Costa Rica. With an array of innovative interventions, this EBAIS (as the primary healthcare units are called) allows the participant to explore the complex dimensions and nuances of intercultural healthcare delivery. Interaction with on-site Costa Rican last year medical students will also contribute to the expansion of the participant´s knowledge on the Costa Rican healthcare system, as well as the comprehension of the nuances of delivering health in a universal healthcare system.


The program is open to health science graduate students (e.g., medicine, public health, nursing, pharmacy, dentistry, and physical therapy), promoting transdisciplinary work and highlighting the importance of teamwork as a basic mechanism for attaining shared objectives. Preceptors and placements will be allocated according to field of study, and specific tracts will be created for participants from different fields. For example, dentistry students will spend most of their time with dentistry teams, however they will be required to interact with other health professionals.

The program requires participants to have an intermediate level of Spanish (DELE B1 level or equivalent). Workshops and grand rounds will be developed in English. Participants will be exposed to vocabulary related to global health as well as sustainable development during their program. 

If a participant can prove proficiency in Spanish (DELE C1 or C2 or equivalent) or Spanish is their first language, the participant will be allowed to waive the Spanish component of the program.

CISG's programs are best fit for future leaders seeking professional development in intercultural areas with an emphasis on health policy development and project management, education (health prevention and promotion), research, community outreach, health systems planning and evaluation of health interventions.

How to Apply

CISG welcomes applications from students who have competency in Spanish (DELE B1 or superior), and who have a cumulative grade point average of 2.5 or higher.

In 2018, the program will take place over the months of June and July (exact dates TBD); applications will be considered on a rolling basis through March 30, 2018.

To apply, send an email to expressing your interest in this opportunity, and request an application form.

Students will need to prepare and submit the following materials to CISG:

  1. Completed application form.
  2. Letter of recommendation from a STEM university professor or instructor
  3. Proof of proficiency in Spanish (DELE B1 or superior).
  4. Letter of motivation that describes the student’s motivation to take this program. The letter should include solid reasoning for the choice of this particular program, and convey an understanding of the program model. (750 words maximum)
  5. Academic transcript from your most recent academic year.
  6. $55 USD application fee. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the duration of the opportunity?

6 weeks

What is the cost to students?

The total cost for the 6-week program is: $4250 USD [1][2]

CISG has a not-for-profit model that allows keeping programs fees as low as possible. Program fees include:

  • Pre-departure support and guidance.
  • Tailored program structure and learning outcomes that meet the participant's needs according to their level of clinical training and their Spanish level.
  • On-site orientation at the beginning of the program.
  • Airport pickup and transport from airport to Coto Brus.
  • CISG on-site instruction, administrative support, and program oversight.
  • Placement and preceptor at a local primary healthcare unit.
  • Eight hours a week (48 total) of medical/clinical Spanish.
  • Room and board in a dorm-style setting.
  • Three meals a day.

Program fees do not include:

  • Airfare.
  • Personal travel during and outside of program dates.
  • Entertainment expenses including alcoholic beverages, and personal purchases.

[1] Costs may vary according to the number of participants in the program, as well as special requests for private rooms and additional Spanish lessons. Prices may also vary according to exchange rates and in-country inflation.

[2] Participants that are eligible for Spanish-program waiver, the amount of $850 USD will be discounted  and will pay $3400 USD total.  

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