Serving The Medically Underserved

Last January 23 to 25, I joined a medical-surgical mission organized by classmates based in Indiana, USA.  The last time I actively participated as a volunteer in the medical part of a mission was probably more than 20 years ago. And frankly, this time was an eye-opener for a hospital based health professional like me. Not that missions are rare experiences for me, on the contrary, the hospital I was connected with is a regular venue for surgical missions, in fact it has a waiting list of groups wanting to hold one there and reservations are made as early as 2-3 years before the actual date.

But I have never been an advocate of medical missions since I believed that people came not because they are really sick but to get the free medicines.  However, seeing the thousands of men, women and children who came to Dumangas, Zarraga and Janiuay, waiting for hours to be seen by a doctor, I had this nagging question.  Is it really just for the medicines or was there a real need by these people to see or talk to a doctor? 

After 2 days of doing consultations and giving health education to the patients and their families, I realized that people come to medical missions because they are largely underserved. There's just not enough doctors, nurses (which is ironic because we mass produce nurses) and midwives available to serve in the health centers, and even these are often inaccessible for those who lived in geographically disadvantaged areas. And of course, there is the question of "can they afford to see a doctor".  Sadly, this is the situation in our fragmented health system in the Philippines and there is really not much we can do right now.  However, this realization made me appreciate the medical mission's worth and importance.  I am not saying that I have become totally altruistic all of a sudden but talking with the patients about their concerns and worries about how they can get good medical care was something that touched me. As a doctor, I felt bad that our profession take patients like them for granted.  And so, coming back home, I thought about where I can continue to be of help.  Last Thursday I was lucky to talk to Fr. Mao, the head of the Social Action Center of the diocese I belong to and learned that they regularly held medical missions. I offered to volunteer, and suggested that for better outcomes, health education and counseling should also be provided to the patients and their families as an integral part of the mission and not just the free clinic. We can hold short and interactive learning sessions on proper nutrition and preventive medicine. Father was very receptive and got my contact numbers so they can include me in their next mission.  What a blessing!

To my batchmates in the UST Medicine Class 1980 who participated in the mission, it was great to see you again and work with you. The experience was gratifying. To Dr. Ferdie Ramos and Dr. Evelyn Santos-Ramos, your dedication and commitment to bring much needed medical and surgical services to our less fortunate kababayans (countrymen) is something akin to unconditional love.  May God continue to bless you and your team a hundredfold.

photo courtesy of Nats del Carmen


  1. Great medical mission. I hope the mission will be successful to its orientation. Thanks


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