Walking down the street, you might think it was Halloween, or that a United Nations meeting just let out. Around you people are donning the traditional garments of the Levant, the Gulf, North and Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, and others I’m not even sure of. Really, like many Americans or Europeans that visit Jordan, they’re just tourists. And while they may have come to see Petra, or the Dead Sea, or well-preserved Roman ruins, the primary purpose of their trip is to visit hospitals, clinics, laboratories and private practices. And walking down this street hosting many of these destinations, I am among them.
Jordan is a new nation, and early on it recognized that unlike its neighbors, it had little to offer in the way of natural resources, so it began to invest heavily in education and national security. Its citizens are highly educated, English-speaking professionals who are leaders in the region for banking, IT, advertising, medicine and law. Jordan is also a secure nation from which the US safely administers its war in Iraq, and many regional corporations headquarter their operations in Amman.
So while solutions remain unfound in Israel & Palestine; the Syrian government and the US can’t seem to get along; the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has enough oil to make friends with anyone while denying its citizens meaningful participation in the government; Lebanon recovers from a civil war and braces itself against Israel and internal strife; Egypt tries to suppress its mounting tension, debt, and swelling population; and Iraq, well, smolders, Jordan sits calmly in the middle, absorbing refugees while providing the stability and educated workforce for business to carry on elsewhere. At only about 25% that claim themselves to be natives, Jordan is a nation of refugees, and its stability is its greatest export. When rich Iraqis need stable banks to hold their wealth, they look to Jordan and the West. When rich Palestinians were driven from their country, they came to Jordan. When Egyptians found no work in their home country, they came here.
Doctors, nurses and pharmacists study their trade in English. In fact, many university departments conduct all their scholarship in English. This equips them well for international participation in conferences and training, as well as working and studying abroad. At first I was surprised to learn that my dermatologist went to medical school and carried out his residency in Philadelphia. But when a new acquaintance shared with me his love for Stanford, which he gained at their medical school during a summer specialist training in advanced treatments for cancer, and my ophthalmologist his love for Harvard, and my dentist his 10 year schooling in London, I realized that Jordan’s reputation as a great medical tourism destination is well-founded. The treatment here is of the highest international quality. It’s the best in the region, which is why these streets of clinics and hospitals are full of people from all around the world.
I’m blessed and spoiled as a Fulbrighter. One of the many benefits is I enjoy is great insurance. I have diplomat insurance, the same stuff they give those working for the US Department of State. I show up, get treated, scan the invoice, email it to someone, and money shows up in my account. It’s so easy. I’ve been touring myself, taking care of things I never thought to ask a doctor about in the States, because who knows the next time I’ll have insurance this good. But even if I didn’t have insurance, I’d probably still be visiting these doctors. Let me explain.
I had a little internal problem taken care of that required me to be put under, have some minimally-invasive surgery, and spend the night in the hospital. I was told by a US doctor, that though the procedure took but twenty minutes, the whole thing would have cost upwards of thirty thousand dollars in the states. There was an anesthesiologist involved, a surgeon, nurses, and a night in the hospital. Because of my insurance, I paid nothing. They covered the entire $900. No, not a typo, it was less than thirty times cheaper in Jordan. With a specialist surgeon trained in Europe.
I broke my tooth in fourth grade. They bonded it, a more temporary fix, expecting that I’d break it over and over throughout an active adolescence (I only snapped off the bond once, into Bryan Berka’s head in the Ozarks while trying to play chicken fights in the lake with a chubby cousin on my shoulders). I have two cavities, and an old one needs to be replaced. I need a full cleaning and treatment. “How much is this going to cost, doc?” He started with the three cavities. He started writing, first a one, then a five, and I thought, ok, one hundred fifty JD a cavity, that’s like two hundred bucks, that’s about what it would be in the States, no problem, they’re my teeth, they need to be fixed, right? But he stopped there. 15 JD a cavity. Using silver or porcelain. That’s $21.16. That’s like a pack of smokes, a magazine and a cup of coffee in NYC. Dude shaved down my tooth, made molds of both my upper and lower jaw, installed my crown, deep-cleaned and treated my teeth, and is filled my cavities for about three hundred bucks.
So, dear reader(s) at home, next time you’re faced with a tall order of work that needs to be done on your body, consider coming to Jordan. You could get the work done here, and with the amount of money you’d save, go on a vacation of a lifetime in five star hotels in some of the most spectacular historical sites in the world. You’d return to the States renewed, repaired, and with more money than if you had stayed at home.