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Medical News & Perspectives
August 4, 1999

Advice for Aspiring Volunteer Physicians

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JAMA. 1999;282(5):413-418. doi:10.1001/jama.282.5.413

Before packing one's bags and flying off to some exotic locale to do medical mission work, a physician should address a variety of factors to ensure a worthwhile experience.

First of all, rarely do physicians volunteer services abroad without working through a sponsoring organization. A physician should try to join with a group that offers the type of experience he or she wants. For example, some organizations send teams of physicians, with their own equipment and support staff, to treat a specific population. Others send physicians by themselves with the idea of teaching local practitioners through observation and example. Still others send physicians to areas where emergency relief is needed, such as in war-torn countries or those devastated by natural disasters.