Traveling as a Healthcare Professional: Adrienne Phillips MD, MPH

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This post is dedicated to reader Gabrielle Handy. Gabrielle aspires to be a traveling nurse once she graduates from college. Since I want to write more posts dedicated to individual readers this year, I decided to seek out a healthcare professional to interview. I found the perfect one! Adrienne Philips MD, MPH is an Oncologist and an inspiring intelligent woman. She was kind enough to participate in an interview with Imported Chocolate.

1. What inspired you to become a healthcare professional?

As I reflect on my elementary, middle and high school years, moments that stand out include building a robot out of Christmas tree lights and boxes in second grade, dissecting a frog in seventh grade, and volunteering at a nursing home in high school. I was always inquisitive and excelled in science in math, but in addition, I had a fundamental desire to understand the human experience. I was also fortunate to follow closely in the footsteps of my ancestors. From my grandfather’s vivid descriptions of house-calls during the Depression to my father’s annual trips to establish eye clinics in developing countries, I saw firsthand the virtues of a career in healthcare.

2. How long have you been an oncologist?

6 years

3. When did you start traveling as an oncologist?

During my undergraduate and medical school education I traveled significantly because of my interest in global health. I majored in human biology and Latin American studies and completed my senior thesis on the response to HIV/AIDS in Cuba and Brazil. As a medical student, I traveled to Cuba to conduct research and complete a clinical rotation in an infectious disease hospital. Initially, I thought I would specialize in infectious disease but during residency training I had a number of interactions with cancer patients and became more interested in oncology. More specifically, I developed an interest in chronic infections that resulted in cancer and ultimately selected hematology and oncology as a fellowship. During fellowship training, I spent nearly 3 months in a cancer center in East Africa treating patients with primarily HIV-related cancers. I now conduct clinical research in virally-mediated cancers and travel to give lectures, see patients, and collaborate with colleagues.

4. What was the process to travel as an oncologist?

There is no formal process to travel as an oncologist. Instead, because my clinical and research interests include international patients and diseases that are commonly seen in international populations, I have traveled to further my research and clinical practice. Depending on the location and reason for the travel, I must write a brief proposal, seek grant support, and report back on my experience. When traveling to present research findings, I must prepare an abstract which is reviewed in advance by a select group, and if selected, will be presented either as a poster or in an oral session at the international meeting.

5. Where have you traveled to for work?

I have traveled for patient care (Jamaica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Tanzania) and to present my research (Brazil, Japan, Belgium, and Switzerland). I am also a member of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) as well as a consultant for pharmaceutical companies and have the opportunity to travel nationally to attend conferences and meetings.

6. What advice would you give a young girl graduating from college who wants to become a traveling nurse

Be driven by your own interests- for me I love to travel, learn about different cultures, and try new things. I have been fortunate to combine this with my work in virally-mediated cancers. You must also be flexible and open-minded. International travel is fraught with challenging situations not the least of which are language and cultural barriers. These challenges are generally instructive and eye-opening and have helped me understand the experience of health care across different populations. All in all, I hope these experiences have made me a more understanding and compassionate human being.


  1. Gabrielle Handy says:

    Thank you so much! This was amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can’t stop smiling 😀

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