GHLO Electives-- A guide by Hamid Ali

-Hamid Ali (Class of 2017)
 Image result for GHLO
GHLO (Global Health Learning Opportunities) is a program by AAMC which connects different universities in the world to send and receive medical students for Clinical Electives.  Thanks to the efforts of KEMCAANA, KEMU became a part of this collaboration a few years ago. There are medical schools from all over the world, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia but most importantly for us: there are about 8 to 10 hospitals in USA that offer clinical electives through this system. Given that I had not given my USMLE Step 1 exam, I applied to two programs: Wayne State University and West Virginia University, and got acceptance from both.

How to use this GHLO portal?

First step is to register on the website Once you are done filling up the form, a confirmation mail will be sent to the home administrator, who in our case is Mr. Rashid in KEMCAANA computer lab. Visit him and he will approve your account. Now access the portal and select the “search electives” tab. You will get a page with multiple filters, just select the country USA and go through the list of all universities that are offering electives. Select one program from each university and go through its information. This page gives detailed information including:

1. The months a specific elective is being offered in. There are also tentative application deadline dates but remember these are not actually followed. The earlier you apply, the better it is.

2. You can get the program details about what you are going to do once you start the elective.

3. You should look up the tuition fees.

4. Some of the universities are more selective: on this page they have written clearly that they will only accept students from specific schools and not all schools listed in GHLO.

5. Make sure you look at the required document list. This gives you an idea whether the school requires STEP 1/TOEFL and whether you have to pay the tuition fees upfront or after getting accepted.

Application process

Once you know you want to apply to an elective, just go down this page and select the button to apply. You will have to upload documents within this page either as pdf or image format. Once you submit a document, you can only change it by emailing the GHLO help desk. So save the documents and submit them only at the end. The “Host school” admin only receives your documents once you submit the final application with all documents and our home admin (Mr. Rashid) has approved your application for which again you will have to contact him. It is stated that you need not contact the host admin/elective coordinator before submitting your documents, but I will suggest that look for their email and do contact them and ask any questions regarding the application.

Some documents which may be required (first 4 are within the packet you get from students office):
1. Transcripts
2. Rotations list
3. TOEFL report/English proficiency letter from Dean of school
4. Recommendation letter from Dean
5. CV
6. Personal Statement/Letter of intent. You might have to submit it before or after acceptance depending on the program. You’ve to state why you are interested in the specific field you are applying to.
7. Criminal Background Check (contact nearby police station in your domicile for this)
8. Immunization reports (different colleges have their own document that has to be filled)
9. Health/Malpractice/Travel insurances (these are required only after you are accepted)
10. Copy of passport

You will also have to pay a $45 application fees to GHLO for each elective you apply to. There may be an additional application fees charged by the university for e.g. West Virginia University requires $50 in addition to the GHLO fees. The tuition fee is paid once you have been accepted. If they accept you, ask the coordinator to send you an official acceptance letter for visa purposes. You can upload the post-decision documents like insurance certificates after getting your visa. You may also have to undergo some sort of training like HIPAA/OSHAA in which you read some guidelines and then complete a quiz to get your certificate. Usually, the program coordinator will send you a link to complete this.

Electives that I identified that we can apply to within the GHLO without the Step 1:

1. West Virginia University: I did an elective here along with another classmate. Requires a $50 application fees in addition to $45 registration fees. Also has a $1000 tuition fee that I paid after reaching USA but they may demand it beforehand.  Last year, they didn’t offer any electives in Internal Medicine so my elective was in Neuroradiology. But now I noticed that a sub internship in General IM and some subspecialties are being offered.

2. Wayne State University:  3 of us from KE got accepted for month of June 2017 but there were a few who applied late and got rejected. This elective had no extra fee whatsoever except for the initial $45. Only Internal Medicine is offered and you can select any sub specialty before starting the rotation. Also, they offer the electives only in May and June, with almost 7 spots for international students. Last year, this elective appeared in the search late in September and they accepted students on first come basis.

3. Boston University School of Medicine: Has a $3000 tuition fee and is not offered in summer months of June, July and August. Offer electives in multiple specialties.

4. Baylor Medical School: Has a $1000 application fees which you send without any assurance of getting accepted. Also requires J1 visa so preferable for those who are US citizens. They also offer some sort of observership without GHLO but I am not sure of the process for that.

5. University of Oklahoma: Appeared in search for a while. Offered elective only in Pediatrics.

6. University of Pittsburgh: Offers electives in a few sub-specialties of IM and Surgery. Tuition fee is $2100. Even though it isn’t written on the initial page but a friend called and confirmed that they do require Step 1.

I identified only these schools not requiring the Step 1 but you may find others when searching so keep an eye out for any new additions. Almost all of the programs will waive off the requirement of TOEFL and accept a letter of proof from dean regarding your English proficiency. Make sure you apply as early as possible for greater chances of acceptance.

Programs outside the GHLO portal we can apply to without the Step 1:
1. Cook County Hospital, Chicago
2. Mount Sinai
3. University of Kansas (Requires TOEFL)
4. University of Alabama
5. NIH (Requires TOEFL with a very good score)
6. FIU (Offers
7. Hope Electives by Dr. Sameer Shafi in Joliet, Illinois

Since students from all colleges can apply, one has to apply almost a year in advance for the above universities.
Those who have appeared in their Step 1 exam before final prof have a lot of other options. I only mentioned places that offer clinical electives but there are numerous hospitals and clinics that offer observerships which can be obtained by emailing different doctors or searching up some contacts you may have in the hospitals all over USA. I would personally suggest that do rotations in programs where you will potentially apply for residency later on. Once you are done with your elective and given that you’re able to impress your attending, there is a greater chance of getting an interview call from the same place.

More guidance on GHLO:


  1. When can a person go for electives? Can you go in 3rd yr?

  2. Most institutions require you to be in final year of your medical school.


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