Finding the time might be difficult, but the costs aren’t astronomical. Most of my trips run between $2,000 and $4,000 a trip, Dr. Smith said. This really depends on where you go, and the most expensive thing is usually the flight. But if you look at it compared to some of the medical tourism things that you can sign up for, it’s probably even less than that, plus it’s tax deductible. The most important thing is you really get to know the people that you visit on a personal basis.
Explore This IssueSeptember 2009
He said that making such a trip at any point in one’s career has advantages. A resident might be able to spend more time on such a trip to see whether he or she really enjoys working abroad. Mid-career, a trip might make for an enriching sabbatical. And physicians would have more experience to offer if they made the trip toward the ends of their careers.
He cautioned that the trips can cause some strain on a doctor’s spouse, who might find the trips boring if they aren’t participating in the work. We do need to be sensitive to our spouses when we take these trips that are so interesting, Dr. Smith said.
The American Head and Neck Society, he said, could help by sponsoring visiting professor positions and conferences overseas, developing relationships with institutions in struggling nations, offering travel grants for residents, and holding virtual conferences.
I do hope that I stimulated some of you to consider helping in this arena, Dr. Smith said. No one is going to come to you and require you to give something personally, but as caring physicians, I hope that we will all stop, think, and ask the question: How can I help?
Donald Annino, MD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, agreed that such experiences are rewarding-he himself spent time in a similar program when he was younger-but he said that it is getting more difficult to find the time, especially for doctors in the middle of their careers.
I think there’s less ability economically, he said. As a resident, there’s a much greater chance that you’d be able to go and do that.
Ali Razfar, BS, a medical student at the University of Pittsburgh, said Dr. Smith’s lecture was helpful and encouraging. I certainly see myself doing it down the road, Mr. Azfar said. It’s personal growth. You get to share some of your knowledge with other people. You can learn a lot. It’s very humbling. I think it’s a good opportunity.