‘Peace Corps for Doctors’: Solving Shortages of Medical Workers Abroad

A U.S. Senator's daughter launches a nonprofit volunteer program to improve health care both in the developing world and at homeimage: Vanessa Kerry during Women's Leadership Forum of The Democratic National Committee Meeting In New York City, July 11, 2006. Vanessa Kerry speaks at the Women's Leadership Forum of the Democratic National Committee meeting in New York City on July 11, 2006

Dr. Vanessa Kerry, the 35-year-old Massachusetts General Hospital physician and daughter of Senator John Kerry, aims to improve health care, both in developing nations and in the U.S. Her new nonprofit, tentatively called the Global Health Service Partnership, will send doctors and nurses to work in developing countries and in return help pay off their hefty student loans.

The goal of the program, which is partnered with the Peace Corps, is to aid countries with severe shortages of health professionals. But, as NPR reported, Kerry thinks the program will also help bolster health care in America by broadening doctors’ worldviews and teaching them to make the most of the resources they have available. “There’s evidence people come back with better clinical skills, better appreciation of needs, more likely to work in underserved specialties,” Kerry told NPR’s Shots blog.

Kerry partnered with the Peace Corps both for its name recognition and its institutional knowledge — it’s been sending workers abroad “in a sensitive, integrated way,” Kerry said, for 50 years. The Global Health Service Partnership will serve to fill a hole left by the Peace Corps, which doesn’t deploy doctors or nurses: volunteers in Kerry’s program will not only offer medical care but also teach and mentor local health care workers.

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To make service more enticing to doctors, the program offers school-loan repayment of $30,000 per year of service.

The Global Health Service Partnership launched in March and began accepting applications over the summer for placement in Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda by July 2013. Doctors interested in the program can apply through December, and the first group of volunteers will be announced in February.