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Welcome to another Hippocratic Adventures chat! I’m Dr. Ashwini Bapat and today we have Dr. Rachel Consoli. Dr. Rachael Consoli is an OB/GYN who enjoys traveling and meeting new patients with different cultural backgrounds. She’s worked with Locums Companies and Humanitarian Volunteer Medical Organizations that have taken her all around the USA and the world. She’s delivered a baby on every continent except Antarctica!
Watch the full video above so you don’t miss out! Below, we share the episode summary and show notes.
1. Tell us your story. How did you end up practicing on 6 continents!?
I grew up in an environment of adventure where both my parents loved doing humanitarian work. My father who was a physician in Boston, took my siblings and I to the Dominican Republic and Haiti where he worked as a humanitarian. We lived without electricity or running water and attended the local schools. We would go with our father to see patients from sunrise till sunset.
My mother was a teacher and was part of a Chinese cultural program at Harvard. So every year we had a Chinese school teacher come and live with us. Our home was always filled with people form all over the world.
Throughout medical school, residency, and fellowship I always searched for opportunities to work throughout the world. By saying “yes”, I’ve had the privilege of working in Belize, Guam, Mongolia, South Sudan, Vietnam, amongst others. I learned how medicine was practiced throughout the world and that humans are humans.
2. What were some of the differences you noticed after practicing in so many different places? And how did you adapt to it?
Having been exposed to different cultures and how medicine is practiced throughout the world, for me, coming back to Boston – THATS the cultural shock I feel! For example, when I’m doing a STAT C-section, I find myself making sure I don’t waste suture! Even having an anesthesiologist present during a C-section can feel like a culture shock.
When I go from the US to developing countries, I am very aware of how privileged we are to have physicians, nurses, medications, and equipment in the US. Compassion, caring, a good physical exam, and basic medical knowledge is universal.
3. How do you cope with the heartbreak of knowing that some of the mothers you cared for that died, if they had been in Boston, they probably would still be alive?
I do my best to use the resources I have and to give my patients a 100%. Yes, definitely a lot of these moms would survive if they were in Boston. This is why I’m doing this work – yes there are some moms that die and we could have prevented that in other places. But what pushes me forward is then feeling that THIS is why we need to come here, why we need to bring more resources, why I need to keep doing the work. Women are the most hard working people in the world, and they are also the most invisible and most forgotten – and that compels me to do more humanitarian work.
4. Have you been able to work under a US medical license?
It really depends what I do and where I’m working. I’ve worked with Global Medical Staffing and they’re amazing – I’ve been to Alaska, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands with them. Global Medical Staffing and the other US locums companies I’ve worked with have taken care of all the paperwork and credentialing.
When I worked with CMMB or Doctors Without Borders they coordinated with the MInistry of Health of that country, and I worked off of my US credentials.
5. What types of job opportunities are available within locums and or humanitarian work?
It really depends on the position and job. If you’re creating an OB/GYN department or starting a program to address Maternal Mortality then yes, the placement are usually for 1-2 years.
Doctors Without Borders or CMMB are very flexible. For example, if you want to take care of all the hysterectomies, or cystectomies for two weeks, then usually this is not a problem. If it’s an intense war zone or just really intense work, even 1 week placements are available.
Most US locums groups offer opportunities spanning 1 month to 1-2 years. International humanitarian or volunteer work can be for only 1 week – it really depends on your skillset.
6. Currently you’re working in South Korea. Tell us more about what it’s like to practice OB/GYN in South Korea?
One of my colleagues read about a job opportunity in South Korea called “Be a Hero to Our Heros” to care for active duty military, veterans, and their families. This opportunity is through the Department of Defense and It took a year of paperwork. I was then offered placement in either Germany, Italy, Japan or South Korea. Since my sister and niece live in South Korea, I chose this placement!
I work on a US army base in South Korea, in an American hospital. I provide inpatient (delivering babies and GYN surgery) and outpatient coverage.
7. How are you compensated for the non-volunteer work?
Usually, when I work in the US with a locums agency like Global Medical Staffing, they’ll come to me with the offer, and they’ll negotiate on my behalf regarding the salary, housing, transportation, and/or benefits. Usually, if you sign on for a year, all benefits are included such as health insurance, and the locums agency helps me negotiate.
I negotiated this opportunity with the Department of Defense myself, based on the standard pay for an OB/GYN and I do get benefits.
But even with volunteer work, you still have to negotiate in regards for payment of airplane tickets, room & board, and meals.
8. How does malpractice insurance work?
For volunteer positions, each organization provides their own malpractice coverage.
With US locums groups like Global Medical Staffing, the malpractice coverage depends. Sometimes they offer the malpractice policy the hospital offers, some have their own malpractice insurance, and sometimes it’s the State that provides you with malpractice insurance.
9. What were the challenges you encountered in practicing throughout the world?
Being in a place where someone’s life is at stake just because one simple thing is missing. And you know, that this same person in Boston would be okay. But for every challenge there’s a story of hope and you can save someones life – in 5 minutes.
10. What has been the most rewarding experience in practicing in so many different places?
I am in awe, always, of women, of how hard women work, of how they come to the hospital and push out a baby without aspirin or tylenol.
3 Quick Rapid-Fire Questions
We will ask some “Rapid Fire” type questions at the end which are meant to induce short/off the top of your head type answers. These will be fun!
a. What’s the coolest place you visited?
b. What’s a piece of advice you would give to someone who’s on the fence about trying out an experience abroad?
c. Have these experience abroad been worth it?
Watch the video to learn Dr. Consoli’s answers!
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