Have you ever wanted to travel to a third world country and experience first-hand what it’s like to help people in need? Many locums love the opportunity to travel while working, but sometimes an especially unique opportunity to make an impact presents itself. Two passionate Weatherby physicians recently went on a medical mission to Zambia that was supported by a grant from the Making a Difference Foundation. Here’s what they learned while giving back in Africa.
The locums path
Dr. Linda Holt, an OB/GYN physician who’s also enjoyed a fruitful career in teaching, started her locum tenens journey seeking out more variety and flexibility in her work after 37 years in a private practice.
“I always wanted to do locums and then I had made the decision that I’d had enough years of doing office practice and I wanted something with more flexibility. So, I started looking at different locums companies.”
Conversely, Dr. Kevin Porciuncula who practices in family medicine dove into locums directly out of residency.
“I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do and I think locums gave me the best opportunity to try out different things. I didn’t want to be locked in.”
Embracing the opportunity
Dr. Holt and Dr. Porciuncula both had a desire to visit other countries to help the underserved.
As Dr. Linda Holt conveys, “I always wanted to see different cultures. I’ve done several mission trips to South America with different organizations and I got a lot out of them. Then last December, Corinne asked if I was interested in being nominated for the medical mission to Zambia and I thought, ‘put yourself where your intent is and if your intent is to try to do some of these kinds of projects, there’s never going to be a better chance’.”
An enriching experience
In Zambia, both physicians discovered a generous culture, a team composed of richly diverse skill sets, and priceless rewards for helping those in need.
Dr. Porciuncula details his experience this way, “My passion in life is really to help the underserved, and I’ve always wanted to do international work. We went to a prison, we went to an orphanage, we went to rural clinics and even to a center for street children. Getting that experience to work with different populations was deeply satisfying and enriching.”
The value of being adaptable
In Zambia, it was important for the physicians to adapt quickly to new situations. This ability to be flexible, says Dr. Holt, is characteristic of locum tenens.
“It’s a little disconcerting to walk into a new hospital, get a one-hour crash course in whatever electronic records they’re using, and then start taking care of patients. Feeling your way through the paperwork and dealing with the plateau of nursing staff requires the ability to walk in cold into a new situation and essentially prove yourself every single time. This ability to handle new things and settings that are thrown at you are characteristic of most people who do locums.” It was a valuable trait to have when being dropped into a new environment in Zambia.
A favorite takeaway
For Dr. Porciuncula, one of the most rewarding aspects of his medical mission to Zambia was being able to educate patients on how to take better care of themselves. This gave him a sense of making an impact beyond the scope of the mission.
“It gives you a little bit of humility,” explains Dr. Porciuncula. “When you see patients that don’t have the resources we have available here, it makes you realize how fortunate you are as a medical professional to be working in this country. We provided a lot of education and I think that’s the most important thing. One of the drawbacks of medical missions is that it’s so short-term. Can you really make a difference? But I think we did because of that educational aspect.”
What the future holds
Both physicians express strong interest in doing more medical missions in the future.
Dr. Holt says, “I would definitely love to do it in the future. The more we’re able to do it, the more we’re able to make a difference.”
As for their locum tenens journey, Dr. Holt is excited to finally be working a job that fits her lifestyle perfectly. “Locums allows you to not feel guilty. I could take off and go to Zambia for two weeks and not worry about what was going on with the practice at home. I think that’s pretty unique to locums.”