The world as the new local clinic: A critical analysis of three discourses of global medical competency

Maria Athina Martimianakis, Frederic W. Hafferty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


The effects of globalization on health are the focus of administrators, educators, policy makers and researchers as they work to consider how best to train and regulate health professionals to practice in a globalized world. This study explores what happens to constructs such as medical competence when the context of medical practice is discursively expanded to include the whole world. An archive of texts was assembled (1970-2011) totaling 1100 items and analyzed using a governmentality approach. Texts were included that articulated rationales for pursuing global education activities, and/or that implicitly or explicitly took a position on medical competencies in relation to practicing medicine in international or culturally diverse contexts, or in dealing with health issues as global concerns. The analysis revealed three distinct visions, representative of a primarily western mentality, for preparing physicians to practice in a globalized world: the universal global physician, the culturally versed global physician and the global physician advocate. Each has its own epistemological relationship to globalization and is supported by an evidence base. All three discourses are active and productive, sometimes within the same context. However, the discourse of the universal global physician is currently the most established. The challenge to policy makers and educators in evolving regulatory frameworks and curricula that are current and relevant necessitates a better understanding of the socio-political effects of globalization on medical education, and the ethical, political, cultural and scientific issues underlying efforts to prepare students to practice competently in a globalized world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-38
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • Discourse analysis
  • Foucault
  • Globalization
  • Health resourcing
  • Medical competence
  • Medical tourism
  • Professional migration


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