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A large and growing number of doctoral students are involved with global health research. Here we outline the Doctoral Student Complementary Approach (DSCA), a strategy to connect doctoral students from high-income countries (HICs) with counterparts from low-income countries (LMICs) in order to incur benefits for both students and improve the quality of global health research. In addition to presenting a description of the DSCA, we discuss its alignment with the Core Competencies for Global Health Research and Practice and some key barriers, challenges and opportunities related to its implementation. Although this presentation of the DSCA is an entry-point to new possibilities for doctoral students, the approach will benefit from further refinement through feedback. We therefore call upon our colleagues, especially those in LMICs, to provide input regarding the opportunities and challenges of a DSCA in practice.