Date of Award


Document Type

Restricted Access Thesis

Degree Name

MS in Physician Assistant Studies (PA)


Physician Assistant Studies

First Advisor

Holly Levine


There is an evident disparity in healthcare between developing and developed countries. While the cause of this discrepancy is attributable to many factors, a few essential elements include the lack of technology, limited research, rudimentary infrastructure, political corruption, lack of medical insurance, poverty, low power of purchase, mismanagement of the local resources, and lack of education and proper training. People in developing countries carry the heavy burden of this disparity as the short-term medical mission (STMM) Mercy Ships points out, “nearly 50% of people in Africa have no access to a hospital or doctor. Children, teens, and adults suffer and die every day from curable or treatable causes. And one child in eight will die before age 5.” Out of compassion for people living in the developing world, many residents from high-income countries (HICs) volunteer to travel abroad to low and middle-income countries (LMICs) through STMMs to provide medical and surgical care to local populations. Volunteers go on mission trips anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. All year long STMMs recruit volunteers for the purpose of providing medical and or surgical procedures to those for whom STMMs care remain the only available option. The huge number of patients seen and the high number of surgical procedures performed on these short visits are evidence of their success. These service trips, though brief, are addressing the healthcare disparity and giving hope and life to many local families. The free medical care and pro bono surgeries amount to what would be millions of dollars if performed in the United States. Mercy Ships, a well-known STMM provider, estimates that the services on mission trips provided over the past 40 years exceed one billion dollars, providing care for around 2.5 million children and families. In addition, the STMMs model also benefits its volunteers. Such trips offer their volunteers the opportunity to practice skills in another culture and to rediscover the medical virtue of altruism.


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