IAMAT medical care abroad

One of the perils of international travel is dealing with illness or other health emergencies when in a foreign country. (Cruise ships with medical services aboard are the exception to this.) When we learned in 1988 that the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers, or IAMAT (1623 Military Rd. #279, Niagara Falls, NY 14304-1745; www.iamat. org), helps you do just this in numerous countries (in 2007 it’s 125), we joined.

IAMAT doctors speak English and have had medical training in North America or Europe. Anyone can belong, and there is no charge for membership, although a donation is requested to help support its work. If you join, in addition to a membership card you receive a directory of IAMAT physicians with office information and telephone numbers, a set fee schedule* (excluding referrals, laboratory procedures, hospitalization, etc.) and world immunization, malaria and schistosomiasis charts.

When my husband, Larry, and I retired we spent a lot of time traveling, and twice we found that having the 6"x4" IAMAT directory at hand was a real boon.

• Following a 3-week tented safari in Tanzania in February 1991, we were in Nairobi for a few nights before going on to Egypt and, despite aspirin, Larry spiked a 104-degree fever one evening. I got out the IAMAT directory and telephoned the Nairobi number. A physician answered, heard my tale and told me to take Larry by taxi to the hospital immediately, having the taxi stop at the first building on the right (the laboratory) where we would get his blood tested for malaria.

We were to wait for the result and the next morning be in her office by 8 a.m.; again, she gave explicit directions on how to get there by cab. The test was negative and it turned out to be a sinus infection. The physician, who was Irish trained, wrote Larry a prescription and said to have it filled at the pharmacy on the first floor. We paid her the set fee and all shook hands and we were able to go on to Egypt.

• While in Athens in September 1999, after spending two weeks in the Greek islands, we went for an early morning walk and crossed a wide avenue looking into the sun. We soon found we’d misread the traffic light as green! Larry grabbed my hand, shouting, “Run!” and then “Faster!” I finally fell but, luckily, near the far sidewalk.

I had a bruised shoulder and a painful hip, so we took a taxi to the hotel and got out the IAMAT directory. It was a Sunday morning and the physician answering said he was at home but “on duty.” He said he would meet us at the hospital and would call our hotel’s front desk to have them write directions in Greek for the taxi driver.

X-rays showed a little chip off my shoulder and a tiny crack in my hip. He said I was lucky, that no treatment was indicated except painkillers, and a radiologist would examine the x-rays the next morning and he would call with a more complete diagnosis. We paid him the set fee and he did call, saying it was as he’d concluded.

I was in bed for a week-plus, then Larry found an arm-braced cane and I became mobile. We were able to board the Star Clipper as we’d planned to do and went west through the Mediterranean, Suez Canal, Red Sea, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean and on to Thailand, where we went on a 3-week auto expedition through Vietnam and Laos with a guide and driver.

So we say ‘Don’t leave for foreign climes without IAMAT’s directory.’


Ashland, OR

*Worldwide, a visit to an IAMAT doctor’s office costs $80; a house or hotel call by a doctor costs $100, and a call at night or on a Sunday or holiday costs $120.