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How to Become a Missionary Doctor
Working as a missionary doctor is both a sacrifice and an adventure. You may not make the same pay you would make working for a medical practice or healthcare organization in the U.S., but you'll have a wealth of experiences. Missionary doctors provide medical care in other countries where religious organizations set up missions. They are usually hired by the organization and are paid basic living expenses. Their work is mostly medical, although they may also be expected to help advance the faith, depending on which organization they work with.
If you're in medical school or residency and already know that you want to be a missionary doctor, you can get some training ahead of time. For example, the To the Nations medical missions website suggests getting a diploma in tropical medicine, which may require a short stint in the UK or Peru. Depending on the mission you partner with, you may be required to take a few classes to prepare you for missions work. These are typical missionary and Biblical studies classes to help prepare you to share your faith. Your medical school may also offer opportunities to volunteer overseas in a third-world country while you're still in school.
After you become licensed as a doctor and begin practicing, you might want to try volunteering for a short-term missionary doctor assignment before committing to a longer one. This will help you better determine if being a missionary doctor is the right choice for you. Most programs that send off missionary doctors have short-term mission opportunities that last only two to four weeks. You can find out about short-term missionary assignment by visiting a medical missionary organization's website, such as Samaritan's Purse, Christian Medical Fellowship or To the Nations.
Applying for Long-Term
Once you know that missionary work as a doctor is right for you, you'll want to apply for a longer-term assignment. Look for an agency whose religious beliefs match your own. If the agency has a website that lists current urgent needs, look for openings that match your specialty. For example, a hospital in Ethiopia may need an obstetrician or a hospital in Nigeria may have an urgent need for pediatric specialists to work with children. Some agencies may require you fill out an online application that includes your statement of beliefs and why you feel called to the mission. Most assignments don't require that you speak the language, as the organizations provide translators. However, you'll want to check with the organization and see if you need a license in the country you'll be practicing. If you do, copies of your degrees and domestic license can be enough to qualify you, and the organization you represent can help arrange licenses.
Some mission agencies cover all the funding and will pay all your costs while working as a missionary doctor. Other agencies may require that you fund part of your trip, such as airfare, while still others may require that you cover all your expenses. If you have to raise your own funds, start with your home church to see how much of your missionary work the church can sponsor. Once you raise your funding, you can begin your missionary work.
With features published by media such as Business Week and Fox News, Stephanie Dube Dwilson is an accomplished writer with a law degree and a master's in science and technology journalism. She has written for law firms, public relations and marketing agencies, science and technology websites, and business magazines.