If you’re feeling an inner tug to become involved in international medicine efforts, do your due diligence to ensure that you make the most of your experience, Dr. William K. Mallon advised during the annual meeting of the California chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians.
Dr. Mallon, who directs the division of international emergency medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, offered eight general rules to follow:
1. Get a passport and/or visas as needed.
2. Get appropriate vaccinations and prophylaxis (get expert help if you do not know what these should be).
3. Learn some focused infectious disease.
4. What languages do you speak? Will they be useful, or do you really need to learn more?
5. Learn about the culture you will be immersed in.
6. Don’t go on your own. Find a group, a non-governmental organization, or some agency with real “on the ground” connections and some experience who can help you to be effective in your work and help you avoid wasted time and energy just getting to a place where you can use your skills.
7. Think about whether the work actually has a chance to make a difference before you sign on. Sustainable? Appropriate? Welcomed?
8. Have an exit strategy and emergency plan.