Volunteers FAQ

Surgical Mission FAQs


Who are ISHI volunteers? Who can apply for your missions? 

ISHI volunteers include both medical and non-medical professionals. We accept surgeons, anesthesiologists, surgical/anesthesiology residents, CRNAs, nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists, primary care and emergency medicine doctors, and logistical support. As a team, volunteers provide essential medical care to the underserved around the world, sometimes under challenging conditions. Surgical expertise, flexibility and enthusiasm for helping others are some of the essential attributes of our volunteers. 

I am not in the medical profession, is there a role for me on a mission? 

Yes, we welcome individuals who are organized, flexible and can devote time to help us with logistical support. The commitment consists of approximately 2-3 hours per week for 6 weeks before the mission to assist with planning. On the mission, logistics is responsible for arranging transport, lodging, food, and needed supplies. 

How long are your missions? 

Our missions are typically 9-12 days in length, leaving Wed-Fri and returning the following Sunday or Monday. 

What kind of surgery does ISHI perform on missions?

ISHI routinely offers general, trauma and oncological surgical services. We have also offered some urologic, gynecologic and pediatric surgery services as well. Depending on the needs of the particular host site, ISHI can recruit specialty surgeons as necessary. 

Who pays for the mission? 

Our volunteers make a donation to ISHI for approximately $1200-1550 (from the NY/NJ area) depending on the location of the mission. This covers the airfare and some other expenses. ISHI pays for food, transportation in the country and other fees. Volunteers are expected to pay for Visa fees and vaccinations. ISHI does not pay for souvenirs, tickets/admission for cultural activities, or alcohol.

I don’t live in NJ or NY, will the fee be different?

We welcome volunteers from all over the world. Our donations fees are determined from flights based out of the NY/NJ area. If you are traveling from a different location, you may incur different fees to cover the airfare. 

Who handles the booking for travel?

 Once we receive your donation, ISHI books everything for you. We sometimes use a travel agent. If you are deviating from the team flight, you will be responsible to inform us of your preferred flights. 

How and when do I pay for the mission?

In order for us to book your tickets, we require all volunteers make their payment 2-3 months from departure. Payments can be made via our PayPal Giving Fund. All donations are tax deductible. Many volunteers set up a social media-based fundraiser (e.g. Facebook, Crowdrise) and are successful at raising most, if not the entire donation. We request you follow the timeline that will be provided to you if you choose this option.

I am interested but not sure which location I should pick.

We ask that you only apply to a mission for which you can confirm time off. We encourage you to read our website/Facebook page and get a feel of the different locations we serve. Each one is special in its own unique way. If you need additional information after reading our website, you may reach out to us. 

I can only attend part of the mission. 

It is important for us to have the entire team present for the full duration of the mission. Those who can commit to the full mission will be given preference. If you have extenuating circumstances, please indicate so on your application. 

What criteria do you use for selection of volunteers? 

There are many factors that are considered when forming a team for an ISHI mission. Some of these include flexibility, clinical experience, experience with mission work, ability to work as a team player, interest and experience in teaching, and maturity to name a few. Approximately 40-50% of our teams are made up of repeat volunteers. 

What is the process if I am interested? 

We encourage you to thoroughly read our website, FAQs and visit our Facebook page so you have a baseline understanding of ISHI before applying. Only apply for a mission to which you can commit. Once we receive your application and CV, we will review it. Please allow a few weeks before we contact you. We may put you in touch with previous volunteers to give you the opportunity to ask more questions if you would like. You may be called for a phone interview. If you are confirmed as a volunteer, you will be notified and sent our first email requesting all the necessary documents and a $200 deposit to hold your spot. You have 5 business days to confirm.

Once I am confirmed, what should I expect? 

We will request documents from you to complete your file (passport copy, medical license, photo, diploma). If you are local to NJ/NY, the expectation is you attend 2 mandatory meetings prior to the mission. If you are out of state, you can attend our pre-mission meeting via Skype. We will add you to our Whatsapp group chat for general announcements leading up to the mission. 

How many people make up a team? 

Our teams vary from 15-25 depending on the location and our goals for that particular mission. 

I am a returning volunteer, do I need to apply? 

Yes, because of the number of texts, verbal inquiries, and emails throughout the year, it is difficult to keep track of whether you have an interest or are officially committing. Your application shows us that you are 100% committed to being a part of that mission. It does not guarantee your spot until Dr. Ziad Sifri confirms you. 

How long are mission days? What can I expect? 

We eat breakfast as a group typically around 7am. We start our day at the hospital around 8am and can work until 5-8pm depending on case load. We typically rotate smaller teams to stay later in the evening to monitor the last post-operative patients. We eat dinner as a team (covered by ISHI) and incorporate a cultural activity or down time in the evenings. Mission days are Sunday-Friday with a small team returning Saturday morning to discharge the remaining patients.

When are the missions?

Though mission dates can vary, we try to visit our most established partners the same time every year. Currently, missions to Ghana take place at the end of September and missions to Peru occur in mid-May. This is always subject to change based on local conditions so check back often or follow us on Facebook to keep abreast of our latest mission announcements.

Are there any safety concerns on missions? 

ISHI only visits safe locations that have been thoroughly vetted in countries where there is a reasonable level of stability. We do not perform missions around elections or during times of civil unrest.

How will I know what my exact clinical role and expectations are?

 Once you are confirmed, and mission planning is underway, you will be provided a volunteer manual that provides ISHI mission flow guidelines and information about your clinical area. You are expected to become familiar with not only the area you will be covering, but also a general knowledge of the flow and ISHI system from pre-op to discharge. We also have orientation meetings before the first day of the mission.