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Medical Tourism: Dr. Val Chastised By The American Medical Association

Photo of Dr. Joseph Heyman

Dr. Joseph Heyman

Alright I admit it, that was a rather provocative title. The truth is that at the end of a recent interview with Dr. Joseph Heyman, the chair of the board of trustees of the AMA, I was in fact chided for having left full time clinical practice. Dr. Heyman was rather avuncular in his tone when he stated,

You are robbing patients of the opportunity to have a good clinician like you involved in their care. I guess it reflects badly on our profession that the best and brightest are making alternative career choices – practicing clinical medicine is becoming unbearable.

No amount of protest on my part (about my volunteer work at Walter Reed) would convince Dr. Heyman that I hadn’t abandoned my profession to some degree. And it touched a chord with me too – because taking care of patients is very gratifying for me in many ways. It was with a heavy heart that I chose to become a medical journalist instead.

And so back to the interview with Dr. Heyman. We had an interesting discussion about the concept of medical tourism:

You may listen to our conversation here, or read my summary below.

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Dr. Val: Is medical tourism about people coming to the U.S. for care, or about patients leaving the U.S. to get more affordable care elsewhere?

Dr. Heyman: Historically, medical tourism has been about patients coming to the United States to get high quality care. Nowadays, people are realizing that there are wonderful places overseas where they can seek treatment. If they don’t have a very exotic illness, or require a highly specialized procedure, they can get appropriate care overseas. Hip replacements are a good example of a standard procedure that can be performed without too much difficulty. It wouldn’t be as much of a draw for patients who need hip replacements to come to the U.S. Read more »

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