The Work of Medical Advisors in Mission

Medical Advice Away From Home

Offering advice is perhaps best done with some trepidation. Sometimes the stakes are high, the risks uncertain, the circumstances are not ideal and the information incomplete. That’s often true when making a medical assessment in any context. But when taking care of committed cross-cultural workers, ministry strategy and medical safety are not always aligned, although both are needed.

I have been a Field Medical Adviser for over 15 years, advising co-workers in Asia as well as hopeful candidates still at home. I must be mindful of what might be medically wise while working alongside a leadership team to support both the workers and their ministry. The role has two sides: an occupational health type of role, advising on policy and personnel decisions, and a clinical role, much like a GP but with increased use of telemedicine (remote communication).

It is humbling to be appreciated by friends living where trusted medical care is scarce. It can be nerve-wracking deciding the best phone advice when local emergency services are poor. It is a privilege to walk alongside brothers and sisters through the valleys of affliction as well as the heights of healing. And it is marvelous to see God’s grace poured out precisely where and when it is needed, sustaining his ambassadors through all manner of losses and pain.

Being a Field Medical Adviser is not what I left the UK to do, but it quickly became one of my most important and fulfilling roles. Instantaneous healings have been few, but it is easy to see God’s hand in many averted disasters and divine appointments. The way God uses suffering is mysterious and powerful. As followers of the Suffering Servant, we should not be surprised.

Life in the absence of reliable healthcare makes us more aware of our dependence on God and grateful for good care when we receive it. Do pray with us for more members with medical expertise to join the Medical Advisery team, here in Asia
and at home.

Field Medical Adviser serving in Asia

Medical Advice At Home

I first met an OMF medical adviser when I was just 14 months old, growing up as an OMF Third Culture Kid (TCK) in Thailand, Malaysia and India. Later on, it was another OMF doctor who was present at the birth of my brother and sister (twins) at Manorom Christian Hospital in 1983.

I now work as a part-time GP and as a Medical Member for HM Courts and Tribunals Service, since 2015 I have also served as a Home Medical Adviser for OMF UK in the North of England.

What do medical advisers do?

OMF medical advisers work to ensure missionaries can flourish in their ministry through a mix of preventative care, primary health care, travel health advice, and occupational health support.

OMF’s medical advising arrangement is staffed by a network of volunteer Home Medical Advisers in sending countries and Field Medical Advisers (doctors and nurses) in countries where OMF members are serving; all overseen by an International Medical Adviser based in Singapore.

OMF members (and their children up to age 18) are required to have a medical every two years. This involves discussion about any health concerns, some physical examination and advice about further investigations (accessed through their own GP) along with updating vaccination cover. It may include considering aspects of the ministry they are involved in and, if they have children, how they are doing. Any family or individual returning to the field after a period of home assignment will need ‘medical clearance’ from the Home Medical Adviser, perhaps with some recommendations to consider.

Why is medical advising important?

I remember as a 15-year-old OMF TCK, appreciating a conversation on my own with our Home Medical Adviser, because she took time to really listen to me. Allowing young people growing up overseas to share their worries and listening to their point of view is  invaluable. Similarly, my view of the OMF medical is that it is primarily an opportunity to really “see” how someone is doing. It is not merely an opportunity to tick off vaccination cover (important as this is) but also a chance to just let someone talk.  The aim of all of this is for missionaries to continue to flourish in ministry in the country where they are serving.

Does OMF need more medical advisers?

Yes! There are vacancies for OMF Medical Advisers both based in the UK and overseas. In particular there is a need for an International Medical Adviser in Singapore at the moment. If any of these roles is of interest to you, please get in touch.

Dr Rebekah Fox
OMF UK North Region Home Medical Adviser