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Why Do Medical Missions?



Most health professionals dream of international service, but what motivates this ubiquitous attraction? For some, it is the reality of human suffering and a resulting sense of personal duty. Certainly the stark conditions of poverty, preventable disease, absent medical care, and needless death that affect developing nations are disturbing. Providing help is a moral imperative that often evokes compassion and action.


But the inclination to engage in medical missions is usually more complex. Some health professionals see it as an opportunity to test their skills amid the most demanding circumstances – ophthalmologists, for example, who are thrilled at the prospect of performing twenty cataract surgeries in a day. Other health professionals are more motivated by the adventure of entering a new culture, welcoming the insight and unique friendships it brings to them and their families.


Medical missions is also a way to test one’s calling in life. Scott Armistead is a family physician from Richmond, Virginia, who followed this path. At this year’s Exploring Medical Missions Conference, he described how as a medical student he volunteered at a hospital in Tanzania, and as a resident he served at a clinic in Mozambique. “While I did indeed care for people,” explains Scott, “these were moreover ‘vision trips.’ They helped me to test and refine my career plans.” Today, Scott is a staff physician at Bach Christian Hospital in the mountains of Pakistan – a role he’s held for eight years. “In the final analysis,” says Scott, “my motivation toward medical missions was not simply a response to human suffering. It was also complemented by a deep sense of personal joy and a desire to express my Christian faith in a very tangible way.”


Whatever drives you to participate, the Institute for International Medicine would like to assist. Hundreds of health professionals have investigated medical missions through the:

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