The global hyper-awareness from exposure to 24/7 news and social media has left many people wanting to get more involved in medical missions. How can you make the most of a medical mission?
Kent Hospital EM residents Landon Wood, DO, and Timothy Bikman, DO, have devoted much of their free time during the past 6 years to organizing an EM-focused mission project in Madagascar, an island off the southeastern coast of Africa. They are sharing their top 10 #medmissionhacks based on their Madagascar experience.
Medical Mission Hacks
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Ultrasound: Ultrasound has become an essential tool in the ED. In an environment where labs and imaging are limited, its value increases exponentially. But access to this technology is extremely limited. Sonosite’s Global Health Loaner Pool program can help secure a portable ultrasound machine that can be used for free during your medical mission work. Details: www.sonosite.com/about/global-health-loaner-pool. The disrupter Butterfly IQ is a single probe that connects directly to portable digital devices and costs only $2,000. Details: www.butterflynetwork.com.
Education: Too often as medical mission team members return home from 1-2 weeks of service, they are left asking themselves, “What was the real impact we made?” Education is the most powerful tool to effect long-term change. This should be a primary focus for any medical mission project. Host workshops on dental hygiene, clean water preparation, hand hygiene, nutrition, medical procedures, and more. We offered POCUS training, for example.
Doximity Foundation: If you are a physician in training with a Doximity account and are planning to do international medical mission work, you might qualify for a free flight. The Doximity Foundation is a nonprofit arm of Doximity that provides travel grants for medical mission work across the world. Details: https://foundation.doximity.com.
Prevention and general health tips: Review CDC and WHO guidelines for the country at least 3 months before leaving. You will find very valuable information on travel alerts, necessary vaccines, health care-related outbreaks/crisis, active WHO programs in that area, appropriate malaria prophylaxis, and more. Details: www.who.int and wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list/.
Domestic support: Your local hospital and EMS stations can be powerful allies in helping organize supplies and fundraising. Reach out to your hospital system and your community. It’s amazing how this type of work has the ability to ignite a special flame within your community.
Social network and fundraising: Social media can raise awareness and funds for your medical missions. Don’t be afraid to launch a fundraising campaign. Just remember this is charitable money and should be used responsibly, for the direct benefit of the people you plan to serve. Document on social media the impact that money makes. Be creative in your fundraising efforts. For example, we created a kickback incentive program: individuals who donated at least $25 received fresh Madagascar vanilla bean and those who donated at least $50 received fresh vanilla bean and chocolate.
Supplies: Around the world, countless people suffer or die because of treatable illnesses. Domestically, our health care system produces countless tons of medical waste yearly. Programs like Mop.americares.org and Medshare.org help divert these potentially wasted medications and medical supplies from landfills into the hands of medical mission teams at a greatly reduced or no cost. Details: https://mop.americares.org/MOPHome/index.jsp and www.medshare.org.
Volunteers: When it comes to the human resources needed for a successful medical mission, doctors make up only a small proportion. Invite a full team: advanced practice practitioners, nurses, EMTs, paramedics, pharmacists, medical students, and non-medically trained individuals. Each person adds valuable skills in planning and carrying out the mission.
Have fun: This work takes a significant amount of time, energy, and money. It can be physically and psychologically demanding. Take time to embrace the people, culture, food, and geography. Let this work transform you and find joy in the journey.