Through the eyes of two doctors who took locum tenens assignments in the U.S.V.I.

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Practicing medicine on a tropical island seems ideal doesn't it? It's not without its hard work though. The perfect weather may entice you to clock into vacation mode immediately. But work still needs to be done of course. And patients still need to be treated. You'll have time to enjoy all the natural wonders on the island but not before you're finished with your shift, and definitely not before seeing an interesting case you may have never encountered in the States.

So what is it like to practice medicine on a tropical island? Two of our doctors, Martin Oretsky, MD, an emergency medicine physician and Leonard Bentch, MD, a gastroenterologist, both took locum tenens assignments (respectively) in the U.S.V.I several years back. Here are their experiences.

What kind of cases did you see?

Martin Oretsky, MD

One of the main differences between his practice in Southern California and the Caribbean was the high number of patients who presented with sickle-cell crisis. Dr. Oretsky says he treated one single patient with it in his 35 years practicing in California. The other common conditions on the island include diabetes mellitus, hypertension, chronic renal failure and obesity.

Leonard Bentch, MD

Because of the phenomenal tourist population, doctors at the hospital see patients with a variety of medical disorders in addition to the expected problems among the native population. Dr. Bentch says, "A day in the emergency room might bring patients with acute traveler's illnesses, scuba diving associated barometer problems, acute surgical illnesses in patients previously well and a rich mixture of patients with chronic medical problems which have become exacerbated while away from home."

What are the medical facilities like?

Leonard Bentch, MD

Dr. Bentch's assignment was in a Medical Center outfitted with 169 care beds, a large emergency department, inpatient psychiatric care and vast outpatient clinics. Attached was a Cancer Institute, replete with a full array of oncologic services including radiation therapy. The vast majority of medical staff members were native islanders, educated and trained in medicine at 'mainland' universities and residency programs. The facility had adapted to EMR, increasingly paperless medical charts and would soon be installing a PAX system.

In Dr. Bentch's words, "This was no tropical backwater facility."

What kinds of island activities can you do outside of locum tenens work?

Martin Oretsky, MD

An avid photographer, Dr. Oretsky also loves the ocean, so he took his wife, Linda, and headed to the U.S. Caribbean to work and play. As a locum tenens doctor in the ER, Dr. Oretsky got to practice medicine and still have time to enjoy life. Friends there who owned a sailboat took to the high seas frequently and the Oretsky's joined them. The couple also traveled to other islands, where (among many things) they experienced a memorable ranger-led walk through the Virgin Islands National Park.

Leonard Bentch, MD

Three "working trips" in the USVI have not dampened Dr. Bentch's enthusiasm. He lists a litany of things he loves to do there, "We enjoy outdoor concerts at the Reichhold Center for the Arts Amphitheater, marimba music at Crown Bay Marina, as well as the Caribbean Orchid Festival. We never tire of the endless fresh fish and Caribbean lobster, either. Plus, we get tons of local favorites, too, like fungi, plantains and white sweet potatoes."

As evidenced by the answers above you can see that a healthy balance of work and play in the U.S.V.I. can make for a happy doctor. The ability to further medical knowledge and build a CV all the while is also a plus in this uniquely diverse practice setting.

There's plenty more to tell about what it's like to practice medicine on a tropical island. And we're sure you can find all - or at least some - answers by reading the rest of these doctors' locum tenens stories (complete with pictures). Anything else? Don't hesitate to ask one of our experts.

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