As a fourth-year medical student, many will go on trips to help those in other areas of the world. Ethically speaking there are always questions about if we are actually assisting in the long run. Here is my checklist to make sure I’m helping and not hurting.
- How much time do I spend working? Travel is fun but leisure and mission work are two very different things. I cannot say, in good conscience, that I went on a mission trip when I worked once and spent the rest of the time relaxing.
- Do we leave behind infrastructure? If not, we essentially leave no way for people to continue getting care when we leave. If this trip is once a year, think about the need that we leave behind.
- Do we involve the locals? We have heard the phrase, “Nothing about us without us.” Keep in mind that what we believe may help, may not…Make sure the local people are actively involved in the practice. They will be present when we leave.
- Am I a part of the community? This is pivotal. Whether in underserved communities in the US or overseas, one must be open to understanding the community and customs in order to be effective. Cultural humility is real, especially during these opportunities!