Trans-national medicine, historically associated with colonial politics, is now central to discourses of global health and development, thrust into mainstream media by catastrophic events (earthquakes, disease epidemics), and enshrined in the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals. Volunteer human-resource is an important contributor to international health-development work. International Voluntary Health Networks (IVHNs, that connect richer and poorer countries through healthcare) are situated at a meeting-point between geographies and sociologies of health. More fully developed social-geographic understandings will illuminate this area, currently dominated by instrumental health-professional perspectives. The challenge we address is to produce a geographically and sociologically-robust conceptual framework that appropriately recognises IVHNs’ potentials for valuable impacts, while also unlocking spaces of constructive critique. We examine the importance of the social in health geography, and geographical potentials in health sociology (focusing on professional knowledge construction, inequality and capital, and power), to highlight the mutual interests of these two fields in relation to IVHNs. We propose some socio-geographical theories of IVHNs that do not naturalise inequality, that understand health as a form of capital, prioritise explorations of power and ethical practice, and acknowledge the more-than-human properties of place. This sets an agenda for theoretically-supported empirical work on IVHNs.