Going on Medical Missions before you are a medical professional or auxillary health professional can be quite an experience for someone who has never volunteered or shadowed in a clinical setting, as a clinician in a limited resource location such as a rural area, small town, jungle, or even an inner city county clinic or hospital. Here are some basic tips:
- Travel vaccines are necessary, so it would be a good idea to read their risk sheets with side effects a couple of weeks in advance of actually taking them.
- Health Insurance – It’s always best to have health insurance in case you come down with a tropical or rare infection there or when you get back.
- Mosquitoes, which are well-known to spread diseases with after effects years later, do not like lemon scent/acid, vitamin B, nor garlic. Prior to going make sure you are well equipped.
Research sites, because some are all about the tourism of medical missions. It’s basically a tourist trap for those who don’t do their research properly. They take you on an excursion to take blood pressure of supposed indigenous people who are primarily actors. How will you know if you are on one of those? You really won’t, but if you see people with distended bellies, nutritional deficiencies, and vision issues – all from parasites, you’ll know it is real.
Most authentic medical missions are put on by medical schools, hospitals and groups of medical physicians going to research, practice new techniques of surgery or just gain surgery hours and want to do good in places of need. They usually take auxiliary healthcare workers and not pre-meds, because they need people who are experts at what they do, especially when there are limited resources of any sort. They do need language translators, so it may be in your best interest, if you know a secondary language fluently, to ask these groups, more so than going on your own to pay a few thousand to a medical tourist trap group.
Do I really need to go on a medical mission abroad? No. You can go to rural places here in the US that are just as in need like Appalachia, Arizona, Puerto Rico, and etc.. You can even consider these as medical missions – Homeland Security confinement for families, refugee camps, disaster relief camps, or even a Harris County Health Facility which deals heavily with patients who are in need of health information, resources, and care/treatment. You can even raise funds for medical missions for others like Doctors Without Borders, International Rescue Committee, hospitals in need, or Project Cure. All whom are reputable and collectively do good around the world.
Premeds in this city are very luck to have so many opportunities which are local, since we are in the largest medical center in the world and have the most diverse population. All the shadowing, research, volunteering, and medical mission work we do contributes to our experiences in our becoming of a well-rounded future physician, scientist, or medical professional.
Here are some resources that anyone can further research( list will be updated periodically) :