Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

December 8, 2021



Founded in 1971 by a group of French physicians who worked in Nigeria during the deadly Biafran famine and civil war, Médecins sans frontières (MSF) has become one of the most highly regarded and most successful non-governmental organizations in the world. MSF is not for the faint of heart. Its mission is to treat people in war zones, refugee camps and natural disasters. Accordingly, the organization demands applicants have “ability to cope with stress” and a “healthy sense of improvisation.” MSF is known for having produced some of the world’s top humanitarian activists: co-founder Bernard Kouchner went on to serve as the United Nations-appointed governor of Kosovo in the 1990s and recently became the foreign minister of France. Dr James Orbinski, a Toronto physician who worked for MSF around the world in the 1990s and served as MSF’s international president from 1998 to 2000, accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on the organization’s behalf in 1999.

Where they work

MSF Canada is directly responsible for projects in Haiti, Republic of Congo, Columbia, Ivory Coast and Nigeria, but staff work in approximately 60 countries around the globe. It is not possible to request to be sent to a particular location; staff are assigned as needed and according to their availability.

Who is needed

Primary care physicians (must have one to two years of work experience post-residency) with experience in public health, ob/gyn, pediatrics, emergency, infectious diseases, HIV/AIDS/STDs, tuberculosis, minor surgery and general medicine. Surgeons (must have two years of experience post-residency) with ability to perform orthopedic, trauma and obstetric procedures. Anesthetists (must have four years of experience post-residency) with experience in pediatric, obstetric, trauma, dissociative and spinal anesthesia.


Typical contracts are for nine to 12 months. Occasionally missions may last just six months; rarely, depending on the staff member’s experience and expertise, shorter missions of a few months are possible. For surgeons and anesthetists, missions can be as short as four to six weeks.

Financial Considerations

MSF pays staff a monthly stipend, according to their level of training and responsibility. The costs of travel, accommodation and insurance are covered by MSF. For more details, see


(800) 982-7903,