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Personnel are our most valuable resource in missions. For this reason, we like to think of personnel separately from other resources. The following areas are vital when thinking about medical mission personnel.

Decisions made by healthcare personnel regarding where to live, specialty area, practice location and other major life choices are made at various levels of education and periods in life. Influencing these decisions becomes more difficult the further along one is in their education and career. Do we respond to God’s calling or are we able to respond, depending on the same junctures? What does this mean in recruiting healthcare personnel for missions? Mission organizations typically recruit physicians out of three major groups.

  • Students and residents
  • Physicians in practice
  • Retirees and those close to retirement

Students and residents make major career decisions during three key periods of their training.

  • Undergraduate years
  • First and second years of medical school
  • Final years of medical school and residency

The average U.S.-based mission organization typically relies on contacts initiated by final year medical students and residents for “recruiting” these young people. In reality, by this stage in their careers, various commitments have already been made and it becomes much more difficult to think of long-term careers in mission healthcare. We believe a greater response to God’s calling in medical missions would be seen if we were more intentional during the undergraduate and early medical school years.

CMDA has chapters on about 80 percent of U.S. medical and dental school campuses. We see great potential through these chapters to raise awareness of missions during the early training years. Furloughing healthcare missionaries could have a major impact by adopting a chapter and becoming a source for mentoring and information. Most career healthcare missionaries began considering missions because they were highly influenced by another healthcare missionary! Although we are talking primarily about physicians and dentists, the same principles apply to all healthcare personnel. In a recent survey of physicians in missions, the greatest plea for help was in the area of recruiting. CMM plans to respond through active mission emphasis in student chapters and finding ways to have greater influence and contact in the undergraduate years. If you are willing to help with a chapter while you are on home assignment or have some ideas to share, please contact the Center for Medical Missions.

Physicians in busy practice and retirees often are not aware of short-term and long-term personnel needs. Do you need furlough coverage and don’t know how to get the word out? It is now possible to list these needs on the CMDA website with a link to your organization's web address or email address. Contact the Center for Medical Missions to list your specific need. If you have an emergency need, please, as appropriate, describe the reason and we will communicate these needs in additional ways.

How would a practicing physician transition from their U.S. practice to a foreign country? What are the steps in closing and/or selling a practice? What practical pointers are there to make this a smooth and successful transition? What are all the things one must consider and who can help you through the steps? Would one of you who has gone through this be willing to write your thoughts in a “Practical Guide: From Private Practice to Missions?” CMM would love to have this as a resource to help those who are looking to follow you. We will help you do this. Contact the Center for Medical Missions if you are interested.

Member Care
Member care of physicians and other healthcare personnel is critical to their success in ministry and longevity of career. Mission organizations often are not fully aware of the needs of healthcare personnel and frequently do not understand how to meet them. CMDA plans to develop ways to cultivate awareness of, concern for and care of the needs of medical missionaries. We believe that more effective ways to meet these needs can be developed by pooling the resources of CMDA, mission agencies and other organizations.

Three areas stand out when addressing needs of our missionary members:

  • Encouragement, spiritual and psychosocial support
  • Networking
  • Education

Encouragement, spiritual and psychosocial support
Healthcare professionals are constantly faced with excessive demands on their time and energies. The strain of day-to-day clinical work, long and sometimes lonely hours, frequent call and the intensity of illness of those cared for can lead to burnout, discouragement and depression. Those outside of healthcare often do not fully comprehend these pressures. CMM would like to develop partnerships with various ministries, which focus on psychosocial and spiritual renewal, especially for those in ministry. Included in this would be developing resource materials, finding sites for retreat and renewal, networking with counselors and others, and encouraging mission organizations to commit resources and time for you to use.

The electronic age continues to advance into much of the developing world. Capacities to have instant communication are now available to many of our missionary members who just a short time ago were very isolated. With this technology comes an ever-increasing and overwhelming mass of information. Networking is critical in building partnerships, establishing cooperative endeavors, accessing resources and filtering of new, helpful information. Very few people, however, have the time to spend developing these networks of important contacts and resources. CMM plans to develop electronic catalogues of web-based information, helpful contacts and avenues of communication for our missionary members and organizations. We hope to form very valuable networks for you.

The current Continuing Medical and Dental Education conference held each year continues to meet critical needs of CME and fellowship for national and expatriate physicians and dentists. The education committee of CMDA continues to do a great job with these conferences. IHA would encourage each of you to express additional needs and make suggestions as to how we can help meet those needs. Sent your thoughts and suggestions to the Center for Medical Missions and we will be sure they are passed along to the appropriate people.