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Richardson, Robert F. A Descriptive Study Summarizing Pharmacy Operations on Short-term Medical Missions in the Third World. (thesis) University of Arkansas, 1993.

Summary: To get a composite picture of short-term medical missions, and to get information that would be helpful to those planning future trips, author sent a survey to 105 US pharmacists and physicians who had participated in medical missions trips (74 were returned, 57 deemed valid).

According to the survey results, the "typical" medical mission has the following characteristics: 10 days long, 6 days of clinic operations, occurred in Central America, required an interpreter, Spanish the official and the commonly used language, climate warm/hot, an average of 1,684 patients were seen, an average of 3,253 prescriptions dispensed (when a pharmacist was along on the trip, the avg. rose to 4,080), avg. patient received two prescriptions, mission sponsored by a religious organization, a church building was used for the temporary clinic, 60% of medical supplies were donated (primary sources were physicians' samples and pharmaceutical sales representatives), 26% of purchased supplies were from US drugstores, avg. team had 17 members (4 physicians, 1 pharmacist, 5 RNs, 7 others), clinic had electricity but no potable water or communications equipment, treated chronic disease esp. hypertension.

Methodology: The physicians/pharmacists surveyed were NOT a random sample of all those who had gone on medical missions. Rather, were contacted through personal connections with author, through sign-up sheets at several pharmacy conferences, through lists provided by sponsoring organizations such as Methodist Volunteers in Mission, Arkansas Baptist State Convention, etc., and through a post-card included in the newsletter of the Christian Pharmacists Fellowship International.

Some responses were deemed invalid because the mission the responder went on was not medical, was longer than three weeks, did not include a physician on the team, or was not a team mission; because the survey described the same trip a different survey described; or because the responder was not a physician at the time of the trip.


        41 pharmacists, 16 physicians

        46.43% went to Central America, 16.07% to Mexico, 10.71% to Caribbean, 17.86% South America, 8.93% Africa or Europe.

        Sponsoring organizations: 87.71% religious, 0% nonprofit/relief, 5.26% US military, 7.02% other.

        Respondents reported on whether fellow mission-team members in various categories spoke the (non-English) language of the visited country: results ranged from 12.8% for Licensed Practical Nurses to 64.1 for those who were in the "other" category (priests, dentists, students, aides, etc).

        The avg. age of respondents was 44.8

        Avg. years in practice 21.2

        Avg. number of mission trips participated in 3.8