As medicine hurtles into the 21st century and beyond, new advances and new challenges mean rapid changes in the way health care is delivered–but not all progress comes without a cost. Patient dissatisfaction and physician frustration and burn-out are increasing, even as available treatments become so advanced that the blurred line between ‘medicine’ and ‘magic’ in many traditional cultures doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
As we embrace the new, we tend to abandon the past and just as ‘newer’ doesn’t always mean ‘better,’ ‘older’ does not always mean ‘inferior.’ Newer physicians today often have never done a house call, may never have been allowed to do a consult lasting more than 15 minutes, or may rarely work up a patient from beginning to end without referring the patient to a half-dozen other stakeholders. It is impossible to have context for other ways to deliver care without experiencing that context firsthand, an increasingly rare opportunity in modern, well-resourced medical settings.
Resource-limited health care is, by necessity, often a blend of the best of traditional medical practice and the best of 21st century cutting edge technology, where the doctor likely comes to your home like a 19th century country doctor, but out of their black bag comes portable ultrasound, telemedicine connectivity, POC diagnostics and exciting medicines that are revolutionizing care. Participating in resource-limited mission work provides rare opportunities for modern physicians to experience and flex the skills on which our medical forebears relied, as well as the dramatic renewal of purpose that comes with providing high-quality healthcare that is needed and impactful–the kind of ‘proper doctoring’ that most of us envisaged at the bright-eyed outset of our careers, and which is so increasingly rare to be able to practice that physicians who can afford to are leaving medicine in higher numbers than ever before.
The skills, context, and renewed inspiration found by so many participants in overseas medical work are highly transferable and astonishingly relevant to your practice at home. Come sail with us on a journey into the heart of darkness, and we will seek out together–and find–the lost art (and perhaps the lost heart) of the vocation we are privileged to practice.