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My Mission to the Philippines

Posted on Thu, May 29, 2014

By Gino Ang, M.D.

EmCare Anesthesia Services/Milford Anesthesia

It all began during residency when I was invited to join a humanitarian mission to the Philippines. The invitation came from an Operating Room nurse I met during my elective anesthesia rotation at the Long Island College Hospital.

It was during that mission that I met a 17-year-old girl who mostly kept to herself in school and rarely, if ever, went out in public. Dr. Ang leads missions to the Philippines.She was embarrassed by a growing lump on her neck, which was determined to be a thyroglossal duct cyst. The cyst, normally removed in developed countries due to possible breathing complications or for cosmetic purposes, had grown to a size of an orange in this girl. Her family had been unable to afford the cost of having the surgery to remove the cyst. She was fortunate to be selected to have the surgery performed by our team free of charge. The following day, during post-op rounds, we saw her crying not due to pain, but because she felt so overjoyed of finally getting the unsightly mass removed.

Thus began my self-imposed challenge to help others. Physicians are in a unique position to use their talent and skills to change peoples’ lives. The following year, I organized my own mission to the Philippines. A total of 25 volunteers, including four surgeons, three anesthesiologists, two CRNAs, one APRN, and nine nurses joined me on the trip. Each volunteer shouldered the cost of the airfare and lodging to provide 59 helpless individuals get better quality of life, 28 of whom were children.

Dr. Ang leads the way in "helping our neighbors"I am now planning the fifth installment of surgical missions I called “Helping our Neighbors”, scheduled for March 2014. The first part of the planning process is to determine the services that are most needed followed by assembling the team to provide those services. Most public hospitals have a long waiting list of patients for various procedures. These waiting lists are for a very limited number of procedures that public hospitals provide free of charge to the very poor. The backlog of patients waiting for surgery has been the source of most if not all our cases during our missions. Although foreign humanitarian missions have become a primary source of care for many people from third-world countries, this model has many disadvantages including the risk many countries have of becoming dependent on them. There is also the lack of continuity of care of patients. For many, this is the only time that they are seen by a physician. It is for this reason that, along with organizing surgical missions, I have embarked upon a project to tap the many other missions that are conducted in the Philippines to form a coalition. This project would match missions with the towns that need it most and create a system whereby patients seen in one mission are followed up in succeeding missions. In doing this, the hope is that someday these missions will no longer be necessary.

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