Becoming a Medical Missionary Through Locum Tenens Work

How to save children by day and be a sci-fi author at night.

What does writing sci-fi books have in common with serving as a medical missionary? If you’re Dr. Walter Boutwell, a neonatologist from Montgomery, Alabama, locum tenens is the secret behind his ability to do both.

Inspired by his grandparents who were medical missionaries in China before the first World War, Boutwell knew he wanted to be a missionary one day, but wasn’t sure how it would work with his career and lifestyle.

Now, he has been a locum tenens physician for 17 years, which has given him the freedom to pursue medical missions across the globe, treating malnutrition, malaria and other diseases in children from India to Zambia.

It’s challenging work, but Boutwell learns from locals wherever he goes.

“I got through medical school without ever seeing a case of typhoid, now I can see 10 in a day,” Boutwell said in an appearance on ReachMD Radio.

After 40+ years in medicine and raising children, he deserves some off-time, too. He and his wife, who is also a physician, have dedicated time to traveling the world thanks to his ability to work when he wants.

Something Boutwell didn’t expect – his missions led to him become a published novelist. Inspired by a conversation he had with a boy he was treating in Ghana, he has released the first book in a three-part sci-fi series called Outland Exile.

He calls it a “portable hobby” (he wrote part of it on a boat during a trip to Hungary), one made possible by his locum tenens lifestyle.

To hear the full interview with Dr. Boutwell, in which he delves into specifics on his travels and advice for other medical professionals who want to get started in mission work, click here.