Choosing a Medical Mission

I’ve had the pleasure of working with healthcare providers for almost six years. These providers have ranged from internists, to cardiologists, to advanced practice providers, and inevitably there was always interest in medical missions. My providers often said they would love to go on a medical mission but did not know where to start. I am so grateful to now have the opportunity to work for the Making a Difference Foundation where our mission is to connect providers to medical mission opportunities domestically and globally. While medical missions are a wonderful way to have a new experience and give back, it is important to make sure you are well informed before choosing to embark on your adventure.  Here are some questions for you to think about as you consider choosing a medical mission. 

Why do you want to go on a medical mission?

There was a point in your medical training when you had many considerations to ponder.  Examples include if you would specialize, where geographically would you like to work, financial decisions, what practice setting are you most comfortable, the list goes on and on.

Deciding on a medical mission involves the same considerations.  The most important question to start your process is why you want to go on a medical mission. Is it to have a sense of treating thankful and grateful patients? Perhaps you desire to combine seeing the world and giving back?  How about going to areas where the locals have had minimal medical attention? Do you want to be a part of education and prevention initiatives for long term sustainability?   By understanding why you want to go on a medical mission it helps you begin to understand what type of trip best fits your goals.

How adventurous do I want to be?

The Making a Difference Foundation partners with a select few organizations to ensure safety, stability, and sustainability; however, no two trips are the same. Depending on your trip you may be living with a host family enjoying a cultural immersive experience. You may enjoy a trip where you will be backpacking with all your possessions and medical supplies in your pack.  Some trips will place you in a hotel, others in a luxury tented camp and still others you will sleep on the ground in a local school.    

What do I want to do?

Another consideration is what type of patient setting are you looking for?  Trips range from clinic and hospital settings within cities to mobile clinics that visit a new village and community.  It is not uncommon on the more rural trips for providers to carry the clinic supplies with them to the location.

It is important you remember that many missions have limitations on the procedures medical providers can do while they are in the country. It is often fairly basic care.   You may expect to do surgeries, but instead you are giving educational talks about hand washing. That can be a letdown if you aren’t prepared and don’t do a little research on the trip.

Providers are often surprised at the variety of conditions patients present.  You think that you are there to provide pediatric care and then spend the day seeing patients with dermatological and digestive issues.  Your level of flexibility should play a role in the type of trip you choose.

Every clinic looks and feels differently. The site, the number of patients, the capability of the team, and the culture all contribute to the uniqueness of the day and the trip. You may have high patient loads, some manual labor, and an emphasis on healthcare prevention and education.

Each trip is different so don’t be afraid to ask questions and determine what level of care you want to provide on your mission.


Am I personally ready to go?

You should be also mindful of your health and fitness level. Many of the medical missions are in climates with heat and humidity, while others are temperate with more rocky terrain.  Many are in rural areas with extreme poverty.    Are you ready to possibly live without western conveniences for a week?  Are you comfortable eating different types of food?   Are you comfortable with walking, hiking, or would you be better suited with modern transportation?

I suggest that you think about these questions as you look through our medical mission opportunities.   We want to ensure you are physically ready for what may come.


How much am I willing to spend?

Financially, you will want to decide what will make sense for you. The trips available range from $2,500 to $7,950 USD. The higher price opportunities tend to have more of a voluntourism feel, where you work hard during the day and enjoy chef prepared meals, hot showers, and most modern conveniences. Then there are trips where you are immersed within the local community.  Be honest with yourself about the type of trip experience you want to have, and how much you are willing to invest.

The Foundation doesn’t want finances to be a barrier to delivering healthcare. If you can demonstrate financial need, there are some grants available for medical mission trips.

We would love to have a conversation with you and help you understand the opportunities available! We look forward to partnering with you in Making a Difference!




About the author

Charese Jamison

Charese Jamison is a foundation specialist at the Making a Difference Foundation who worked as a physician recruiter over the course of 6 years. She is a lover of life, people and all things good.

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