Few four-year-olds come up with birthday wishes that revolve around career decisions, but Dr. Chastity Edwards, distinctly remembers deciding to become a doctor just before she blew out the candles on her cake that year.
“My mom told me to think of something really good to wish for. I was wracking my brain trying to figure out an enormous wish,” she recalls. “I blew out the candles and my wish was to be a doctor.”
Amazingly, her career wish never changed. Upon earning her medical degree, Dr. Edwards chose to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology, and has been practicing women’s health for 20 years. However, a few years ago, she found herself disillusioned with healthcare and contemplated leaving the profession.
“Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon with physicians, especially in my generation in the United States. Medicine is not what you thought it was going to be. It wasn’t as empowering where you can just treat patients and you’re not caught up in bureaucracy and paperwork and changing protocols,” she says.
At that point, Dr. Edwards decided to give medicine one more chance, but realized she need to really shake things up. She began exploring the possibility of practicing in Dubai. For whatever reason, though, her intuition kept sending her warning signals.
“As I started investigating more, I decided I really didn’t want to go to Dubai, and instead ended up working in Maui, Hawaii, until that department closed,” says Dr. Edwards. “That’s when I found myself once again thinking, ‘I still love practicing medicine, but I’m tired of some of the politics related to medicine. Where I can continue to serve?’”
Then she recalled previous contacts with Weatherby Healthcare. Dr. Edwards called on a consultant, and soon had an assignment in Maine, then in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina. She’s been happily accepting locum tenens contracts exclusively for the past two years.
“I get to have new experiences and meet new, wonderful people, both townspeople and medical staff and patients,” says Dr. Edwards. “Locums allows me to travel, but travel with a purpose.”
Indeed, one of the benefits of locum tenens for Dr. Edwards is that she has opportunities to deliver a positive impact on the women for whom she cares while on assignment.
“What I love about being a locums physician is that I’m able to go to facilities that are in need of my skill set and talents,” she says. “I’ve also gotten to teach residents, which is something I didn’t think was in my skill set, but I’m getting positive feedback. That makes me feel like I’m having an enduring impact on healthcare other than just the care of a specific patient.”
This summer, Dr. Edwards was offered an opportunity to extend her impact all the way to Africa as a 2018 Difference Maker. Funded by a generous grant from the nonprofit Making a Difference Foundation, Dr. Edwards joined a team of fellow Difference Makers and Weatherby Healthcare employees to provide care and training at Baraka Hospital in Kenya.
“My first time walking into Baraka was amazing. I was so impressed by all the hard work everyone had done to put together such a fabulous clinic. It was very clean, very well organized, and had more new technology than I thought I would experience, especially compared to my other medical mission experience in Liberia,” remembers Dr. Edwards. “The staff and clinicians were very eager and very smart with a great heart.
“I, too, have been able to gain new skills and grow, not just as a physician, but as a person. I think what I’m taking with me is hope.”
In fact, Dr. Edwards sees similarities between the mission experience and some of the experiences she’s had on temporary assignments.
“What we deal with in a lot of communities, whether it’s in Appalachia or Baltimore, is really a story of hope. In communities that have felt forgotten, I have hope there will be a way to address their needs,” she explains. “I actually feel strengthened and empowered to try to figure out a way to do that for those communities.”