Help me engage my wanderlust as a medical professional

I love traveling and visiting other cultures but haven’t had much of an opportunity to do so because of school. However, I will be an MD (hopefully) in 2013. After I finish residency, what are my options if I want to spend a good chunk of the year abroad? I’m really interested in seeing almost any part of the world.

Also, I studied German in undergrad and am sort of fascinated with the culture. Is there any way I could live and practice there? Do I need to pass a lot of German qualifying exams?

Thanks for all your help!

Doctors Without Borders? They help provide medical care to people around the world who desperately need it and may never have seen a properly-outfitted clinic, or even a doctor, before. This is probably geared more for the kind of person who thinks they’d be a good match for the Peace Corps, so I wouldn’t blame anyone who found it not quite their cup of tea.

The U.S. military’s always looking for doctors; along w/ deployments to exciting places, you’ll move to a different base every 2-3 years, since all docs are officers.*
*Livable wage not available.

That’s a great suggestion, Ferret Herder. Do you know anything about the organization, or anyone who works with them? For some reason I was under the impression that people didn’t really work for them full time . . . it was more of a thing where you take a 6 mos-year off occasionally and did regular work in your downtime.

But I could be wrong about that.

I’m afraid I don’t; my contact with DWB/MSF is limited to sending contributions. You may be right about their structure. Quickly looking over their website, it looks like they have a fairly informative section under their “Work With MSF” link.

The NYT had an interesting article last week about doctors working abroad in underserved areas, focusing on a doctor send by the Pediatric AIDS Corps to Malawi. That particular program is ending, but the article talks about other, similar programs, plus the website mentions a newly announced successor program.

That’s a great article! Thanks GilaB

MSF or VSO are options.

A friend of mine just got a job as a doctor on a cruise ship, if you fancy that- you work 4 months on, 2 months off, alternate days on call, tax free salary (about £50k a year). I’m not saying that the work is that exciting (basic primary care with the odd emergency), but the 4 months holiday a year give ample travel opportunity, as well as the chance to get off the boat on your days off.

Most developing world jobs require you to have a portfolio of skills- obstetrics, surgery, primary care, emergency medicine and anaesthetics. You’d be working single handed so you need to be able to WORK single handed- a typical American residency might not give you a broad enough skill set.

The BMJ (and, I assume, American journals) often have advertisements for foreign jobs. Tristan de Cunha is currently looking for doctors, for example.

The UK usually requires overseas Drs to pass the PLAB test- should be no problem for an American graduate who has passed their boards. An exemption would be granted if you can get an appropriate sponsor.
See here.

Proving your competence won’t be an issue- getting a visa might be. You’d either be on a Tier 1 or Tier 2 visa, and there are restrictions on which jobs you can have. See here. You need to have proof of financial solvency and high level skills to get the most points, and you won’t be given a full training post, but rather a service provision or short term position.

If you’re looking to come to the UK to study the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine does postgraduate courses that would be useful if you do decide to work in the developing world, and a student visa might be easier to get (although you wouldn’t be able to work as a Dr while you studied).

Most EU countries have similar requirements regarding language and professional competencies and visas.

If you want specific advice about the UK, I can give you that.

I’m sure the Peace Corps would be interested in you; they love young people with advanced degrees in things that people in third world countries need.

I’m not sure if Peace Corps has any positions for MDs. Their health programs are usually more about training and straightening community health care programs and working with the community on basic health education and preventative care. That said, it may be worth giving a recruiter a call- if they do have jobs for MDs, you can bet it’s something really special that would have a big impact, and you would certainly have your pick of where you go.

One option, though, would be to become a Peace Corps medical officer- every country has two (though many are locally hired staff) doctors or nurses who take care of volunteer’s medical needs. I imagine the foreign service and any other US government agency that works abroad does the same. It’s a pretty cushy lifestyle with lots of perks- you wouldn’t be roughing it- and you’d have a nice career ladder to climb. That said, federal hiring isn’t great right now. Give it some time.

I cannot say enough good things about the work of MSF. They do amazing things. As far as I’m concerned, they are all heros. If you could give some of your time to them, you can rest assured that you have used your life to make a difference. You’d never have to worry about if you did or did not make the world a better place.

It’d also get you a start in working abroad, which could open some doors for you. It’s going to be hard to get a position abroad if you have absolutely zero experience living abroad. Many overseas jobs have a minimum “overseas experience requirement,” and working with MSF can help you get there.

Anyway, with an MD, a lot of doors are open for you and I doubt there are many places you couldn’t go if you wanted to. If you want a life of adventure (and service), epidemiology and infectious disease/tropical disease is the place to be. Also- learn French.

Thanks again for all your answers!

Even sven, do you know anyone who works for MSF as an MD? It’s always been an organization I’ve been interested in, but when I looked at the website, it seems like basically you fill out an application and go into a “pool” and wait until you’re called for a specific assignment. So you have to find something to do in between assignments, right? And it has to be flexible enough that you can leave on short notice to do your MSF work?

Or do MDs work for them full time, if they want?

I’ve met a few in the field. I’ll ask around here and see if I can find anyone around here. No promises, but if I do, I’ll PM you.

Have you considered locums? You’d have to sort out your credentials in the host country, but usually the local health board picks up a chunk of your tab regarding transportation, room and board, plus you earn money, and you can just schedule time off at the end to noodle your way home by whatever route you want.

Where are you, what residency, and do you want to see Atlantic Canada?

It depends. Sorry, the official German system is smug and arrogant and thinks that nobody else has an education equivalent to the German one, so it’s a slow and wasteful and tedious process to get your diploma from another country accepted in Germany. It varies from state to state (Bundesland), for pete’s sake. The govt. has recognized that refugees and immigrants, even when non-German, might actually be worth more for the economy if they are permitted to work as engineers, doctors and similar specialists, than as non-accredited taxi-drivers, waiters and janitors, so they are slowly trying to change that. Currently, however, the main website for accredition is German-language only, so I point you mainly to the official pages:

The Arbeitsamt(employment office)

Accreditionof foreign diplomas and job trainings

Theforeign ministry on working in Germany

They recently did a study on the waste of potential and resources, you can read some chapters in Englishhere.

Generally, as non-EU citizen it will be more difficult for you, but being an American and doctor should count in your favour.

Knowledge of German is very important when dealing with the daily, low-level bureaucracy, but also depends on where and what kind of work you want to do - open a practice treating normal citizens, or work in a university hospital? The later would be a more international enviroment, where English would be more accepted together with German.

The U.S. Department of State is what you’re looking for. Their medical corps sees more of the world than even most diplomats. You usually end up being assigned as the Regional Medical Officer (RMO) in some central location (like Nairobi, Kenya for example) and making the rounds of the other embassies in nearby countries that only have a nurse or nurse practitioner running the local office. All of those regional doctors are highly respected, and they all carry a medical kit with them when they go on vacations to remote areas. The remote villages have zero medical care, and there is always need for eye drops, antibiotic cream, scalp treatments and the like.