Taking medical experience on the road
Many of these service-minded travel opportunities allow volunteers to support people and communities in need. Those with professional backgrounds in healthcare are in high demand for such roles. Scott, for example, has mentored Ugandan midwives and nurses, and in 2013 served on the front lines of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone.
A term often used to describe these trips is medical missions, but the busy schedules of many in the medical field are often a barrier to signing on. Which is why Calvin Sun, a 31-year-old emergency room doctor in New York City, launched a startup dubbed The Monsoon Diaries.
“When I was in medical school and going on trips abroad, one of the most frequent questions I got was how did I have time to do this,” says Sun, who as a student helped build a medical clinic in Mexico and recently partnered with Project Medishare to provide health services in Haiti. “I want other doctors and healthcare professionals to realize it is possible to do both.”
Beyond the satisfaction of knowing you’re making a real difference in a community, Sun explains that the organized structure of many group travel programs such as The Monsoon Diaries also allows volunteers to fully experience the culture of another country.
“One thing that’s so important in these types of experiences,” Sun says, “is looking for ones that can create a sum-positive experience for the people you work with, as well as yourself.”
For Scott, it’s all about synergy. Her volunteer posts abroad and her work at home build on and strengthen each other while providing a unique perspective on both her career and life.
“I never would have seen Ebola up-close back in Seattle,” she says. “So as a nurse, I approached that mission with equal parts fascination and terror. But as a person, I was grappling with fear and an intense desire to help. So I really had to dig deep and realize that I didn’t want fear to hold me back. I had a skill, and I could help in the best way I knew how.”