Research Article: The Benjamin H. Kean Travel Fellowship in Tropical Medicine: Assessment of Impact at 15 Years

Date Published: September 07, 2017

Publisher: The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

Author(s): Aubri S. Carman, Chandy C. John.


The Benjamin H. Kean Fellowship in Tropical Medicine is an American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene initiative that provides medical students with funding for international clinical or research experiences lasting at least 1 month. Of the 175 Kean fellows from 1998 to 2013, 140 had current available e-mails, and 70 of the 140 (50%) responded to a survey about their fellowship experience. Alumni indicated that the Kean Fellowship had a high impact on their career plans with regard to preparation for (N = 65, 94.2%) and inspiration to pursue (N = 59, 88.1%) a career in tropical medicine and global health. Continued involvement in tropical medicine and global health was common: 52 alumni (74.3%) were currently working in tropical medicine or global health, 49 (71.0%) had done so in the interim between the Kean fellowship and their current position; and 17 of 19 Kean fellows (89.4%) who had completed all medical training and were now in professional practice continued to work in tropical medicine and global health. Alumni had been highly productive academically, publishing a total of 831 PubMed-indexed manuscripts, almost all on tropical medicine or global health topics, in the period between their fellowship year and 2013. Alumni reported strengths of the fellowship including funding, networking, and flexibility, and suggested that more networking and career mentoring would enhance the program. The Benjamin H. Kean fellowship program has been highly successful at inspiring and fostering ongoing work by trainees in tropical medicine and global health.

Partial Text

Medical students in the United States continue to indicate increasing interest in the study of tropical medicine and global health (TMGH) and opportunities for international experiences in the field during their medical education.1–6 Previous studies have described the rapidly increasing number of medical students who complete international experiences—in 1984, just 6% of medical students had such an experience compared with 29% of graduating medical students surveyed in 2014.1,4 Students who completed international elective experiences were more likely to pursue careers in primary care or public service, have increased confidence in physical examination and history taking skills, and both suspect and recognize diseases endemic to the developing world in either immigrants or traveling patients at their home institutions.5,7–9 International elective experiences have also been linked to enhancing students’ desire to work with underserved populations, a desire that normally suffers a well-documented decline among medical trainees throughout the continuum of pre- and postgraduate education.7 The benefits of international experience are vast and timely given the current pace at which globalization is occurring.

ASTMH and Kean Fellowship staff retrospectively collected data using an electronic 17-question survey. A link to complete the survey was e-mailed to alumni who had received the Kean Fellowship from 1998 to 2013. A single follow-up reminder was sent to fellows who did not complete the survey. The survey asked alumni to report details about their current career positions as well as current and past involvement in TMGH. Multiple responses/categories were allowed to demonstrate the breadth of TMGH work. Respondents were also asked to indicate the impact that the Kean Fellowship had on the role of TMGH in their career and pursuit of future TMGH opportunities. Additionally, respondents were asked to comment regarding the strengths and possible areas of improvement for the fellowship through open-field response questions. The survey questions are summarized in the tables and figures in the Results section, and the full list of questions is listed in Supplemental Information: List of Questions for Kean Fellow Survey. Survey responses were anonymized before review.

The Kean fellowship survey results show that the fellowship has succeeded in its goals of inspiring interest and fostering ongoing work by North American medical students in TMGH. The Kean fellowship provided the needed resources for these medical students to pursue a tropical medicine rotation, and this experience and their experience with other Kean fellows and ASTMH members appears to have encouraged continued work in TMGH. Fellows remained involved in TMGH work in a variety of capacities, showing that the ASTMH investment in early career trainees through this fellowship is paying dividends not only internationally, but also in local health systems through engagement in refugee, immigrant, and Indian health. Perhaps most encouragingly, Kean fellows have been highly academically productive, with 831 postfellowship publications from 1998 to 2013, and retained a strong commitment to TMGH, with ∼90% of those now in professional practice continuing to be involved in TMGH work.




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