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International locum tenens a rewarding family experience

Photo collage of Dr. Gallehr

Dr. John Gallehr wanted to practice medicine because he enjoys working with people and every day is different. He has been practicing for 22 years, currently with a focus on adolescent and child psychiatry. He enjoys the variety of fields he’s been exposed to throughout his career and has worked in pediatric offices, inpatient clinics, and taught at the university level.

In 2013, he got an unexpected call about an international locum tenens opportunity in New Zealand. Dr. Gallehr was in the process of switching jobs, and the timing ended up being perfect for both him and his family. He and his husband, Brian, along with their three sons, went to New Zealand for several months. The experience was so enriching they returned for another opportunity in 2018.

Locum tenens with a family: a unique adventure

Dr. Gallehr says locum tenens with a family is rewarding and an experience he recommends. Brian, a nurse and dog breeder, helps get their kids off to school, where they have been meeting new friends of various backgrounds and cultures.

“In New Zealand, the schools are very welcoming to international students,” Dr. Gallehr says. “In fact, New Zealand is well known for taking students from many cultures, including India, Pakistan, China, Japan, South Africa, and England.”

In their free time, the family enjoys exploring what New Zealand has to offer: hiking, camping, whitewater rafting, and trying new cuisines. “We love trying out different styles of food, not only the New Zealand cuisine, but also the Indian, Chinese, and Japanese cooking that is just amazing here,” Dr. Gallehr says. “New Zealand is a volcanic island, so the food grown here in the volcanic soil has a very rich and flavorful quality to it.”

The boys also belong to Sea Scouts, and they’ve been sailing, hiking, and fishing in the beautiful areas in the north island. The family spent an especially memorable day in Christchurch.

“We woke up and the boys went surfing in the Pacific Ocean on these beautiful waves,” he remembers. “After their surfing experience, we got in the car, drove a few hours to the local ski resort, and there was ten feet of fresh snow.”

Dr. Gallehr

A personal and professional refresh

After practicing for 20 years in the states, Dr. Gallehr felt the need to shake things up on a professional level.

“I felt like my practice was getting a little bit stale,” he says. “To come to New Zealand where everything was fresh and new was a wonderful way to recharge the batteries, to learn some new techniques, to learn about a different style of medicine and culture, and to bring it back to the United States.”

Getting accustomed to the patients in New Zealand has been surprisingly smooth.

“They respect physicians a great deal, and they feel very close to their physicians,” he says. “The New Zealand population often refers to their physician by their first name and they are very welcoming to new doctors. They’re used to doctors coming from other cultures and they really enjoy sharing their country with the physicians that are there.”

The physicians have also been a joy to work amongst and have taught him “a tremendous amount.”

“They are very supportive and they help us understand the cultural differences,” he shares. “New Zealand also has cultural advisors who will go with you to meet the patient and translate if the language is different and explain how the cultural experience may be different than what we’re understanding.”

Life-long changes and future benefits

Locum tenens with a family may seem daunting, considering the inevitable changes. But Dr. Gallehr says overall, the experience has been wonderful, especially for his kids.

“They were initially hesitant to start a new school and move into a new community with new friends,” he recalls. “Now they have new subjects they love to take, they’re enjoying the sports teams, they’ve played rugby and cricket and a lot of these sports that just aren’t available in the States.

“They now have this huge network of friends that they’ll take with them throughout the rest of their lives,” says Dr. Gallehr. He and Brian have also created a network of lifelong contacts. “We’ve had several New Zealand families requesting a place to stay when they visit us in the States.”

Dr. Gallehr and Brian would love to do locum tenens as a family again and are particularly interested in Europe or another place they’ve never been. Their youngest child graduates from high school in a few years, and their twins will be done with college around the same time. They hope their kids will want to join them on another adventure.

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