Press Room

Locum tenens helps physicians give back in Argentina

Physician volunteers on Argentina medical mission

When asked why they chose medicine, most physicians say they’re passionate about helping people. That’s the case for OB/GYN Dr. Zakera Nanabawa and family medicine physician Dr. Tawanna King. And they’re able to follow their passion of giving back because they’re locum tenens physicians.

To put their skills to work to serve people in need, they both signed up for a Making a Difference trip to Argentina.

Finding out about a flexible physician schedule 

OB/GYN Dr. Nanabawa lived and worked in Michigan, Illinois, Miami, Maine, and Phoenix over many years of her career before deciding to take on locum tenens roles for the increased flexibility they offer. Not only do locums allow her to take time for service missions, but it also allows her to travel both in the U.S. and internationally.

She has done international locums work in New Zealand and recently in Saipan in the northern Malaysian islands, and her husband was able to go along on that assignment with her. Next up, she has an assignment in Kauai, a place she has always wanted to spend time.

Dr. King, who knew she wanted to be a doctor since she was a child, found locum tenens in 2021 because of the flexible physician schedule. She shares that she wanted to do something different as far as a practice model. “So I started working locum tenens full time and have come to count on the flexibility it offers for medical missions, traveling to visit my mom more often, and taking control of my schedule.

Pediatric patient on Argentina medical mission

Pursuing their passion for international work

Dr. King went on her first medical mission during medical school. Since she began working locums, she has been able to take on more medical relief trips through International Medical Relief.

“I like to do a lot of international medicine,” Dr. King says, “and because I work locum tenens, I can adjust my schedule and the assignments I take so I’m able to take medical mission work — and have time for other passions.

“I’ve taken three mission trips to the Dominican Republic and have always wanted to go to other places and join other teams,” Dr. King says, “And so, my recruiter with Weatherby knows that and messaged me about the medical mission trip to Argentina.”

Making a difference in the world is important to Dr. King and Dr. Nanabawa, and on the Argentina trip, they had the opportunity to work with the Huarpe indigenous people.

“They’re like the desert people. We worked in the areas where people collect garbage, their homes are made up of trash, and they sell the garbage to make money. You can imagine what an environment that is for skin infections, lack of resources, and lack of water. It’s really humbling to see,” says Dr. Nanabawa. “When you work in the U.S., there may be times when you complain about things that feel very important, but these low-resource settings put everything into perspective. And I like to do these medical missions because it makes you appreciate everything you have.”

Both physicians feel rejuvenated after a medical mission trip not only because it’s a way to give back and makes them feel more grateful but because it creates lifelong bonds.

“It was such a great group,” Dr. Nanabawa adds. “One of the best things about the trip was the people; everyone was passionate and motivated and got along. It was special. There was something special in the air.”

Dr King stuffing medical supplies on Argentina medical mission

What it’s like practicing medicine in remote areas

The providers in Argentina saw about 100 people a day, and people waited in line for hours to see the team.

“We saw patients for four days and worked in two rural communities and two communities in the trash communities,” Dr. King says. “And we didn’t have to go far. The furthest we probably went from the trash community was right outside where we were staying, probably five to 10 minutes away. And then the rural community, the site we were at, was about an hour from where we stayed. We serviced the people in that community, but people from an hour or two away also came.”

To help provide continuity of care, International Medical Relief partnered with a local healthcare provider. The local provider set the mission team up with state health system documentation so that the team could write prescriptions and make referrals. Everything was done through an interpreter.

“The patients themselves knew that they should be seeing a specialist, but they weren’t able to get an appointment,” Dr. King says. “So, by coming to the clinic that we were providing, we connected them through those referrals to the next step of where they need to go in their care.”

Dr. Nanabawa focused on OB/GYN care, including preventive cervical cancer screening, blood work, removing IUDs, getting birth control prescriptions, and sometimes diagnosing pregnancies.

“Some people were coming with lab results to ensure everything looked OK. We used the dental clinic of one of the local providers we collaborated with, so there were additional rooms we could use. And then there was a nurse, and she was very appreciative that we helped out with the pap smears,” Dr. Nanabawa explains.

“The patients were thankful. I felt good that there would be continuity of care, and International Medical Relief goes back frequently,” she adds.

Dr. King encourages physicians thinking about a medical mission to find a way to make it happen. “There was a lot of bonding that included family-style dinners. It was really a good time.”

Both doctors encourage those looking for a flexible physician schedule to consider locum tenens, as it’s a flexible way to help you meet your personal and career goals.

If you are interested in new opportunities and a flexible schedule, call us at 954.343.3050 to speak to a consultant.

About the author

Kari Redfield

Kari Redfield is a professional content marketing writer. She also is a novelist and writes for newsstand magazines and has had work appear in Arizona Highways, Sedona Magazine, and American Fitness. She loves to travel and has been known to spend weeks in the U.S. West in her Aliner, checking out classic trad rock climbs, epic mountain bike rides, and other adventures.