Despite growing needs for health care, missionary doctors are going out of business in some parts of the world. At most, 1,200 Protestant missionary doctors now work full time, with perhaps another 100 Roman Catholics. And not many of these dedicated healers are able to fill for suffering millions the traditional “White Father” role that existed for more than a century.
Strategy for this new era was discussed by 350 doctors, nurses, and other mission workers December 27–30 at the fifth International Convention on Missionary Medicine in Wheaton, Illinois. Sponsor was Medical Assistance Programs, which redistributes drugs and medical supplies to qualified physicians and agencies abroad.
Reasons for change in medical missions are not hard to find.
First is the advent of nationalism in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. National governments placed restrictions and demands on medical practice. The foreigner from the United States or Europe must get along with the local leaders, and he must practice good medicine.
The missionary doctor is no longer the only source of modern medical help for under-developed countries. There are non-religious medical people, perhaps sent by foreign-assistance programs, as well as native men and women with the latest medical training. While governments are building new hospitals for the national health programs, missionary doctors are often making do with dilapidated buildings and obsolete equipment, or not enough equipment.
The missionary doctor is himself subject to professional obsolescence. Pressed by the heavy demands of work in a missionary hospital that is typically understaffed, and far away from medical training centers at home, the missionary doctor can easily fall behind on new techniques and ...1
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