I recently had an opportunity to visit a medical missions clinic at one of the sports complexes in Dumaguete. I served as a volunteer to observe and help in any way I could. I was placed with some great ladies that were assigned in an area taking blood pressure and blood sugar. Unfortunately, we did not have much foot traffic and not many people stopped by unless the doctor specifically sent them over; consequently, we had a lot of time to talk.
At this medical missions clinic, there were over 150 doctors, nurses, staff, etc. who were there to serve the community. The group was from the US, but a lot of them originally came from different areas in the Philippines. They worked from early in the morning to about 5pm every day for a week- treating patients, distributing medicine, and even performing some surgeries at a hospital nearby.
I’m pretty sure that over the course of the week, they provided care to 1,000+ people from Dumaguete and surrounding areas. I witnessed people coming for regular check-ups, asthma treatments, dental exams, and eye evaluations. At first, I thought, “Wow! It’s amazing to see people taking advantage of the medical missions clinic! I’m glad it’s available to them!” However, the more I though about it, the more my opinion changed and I realized that it’s really a sad situation. Thousands of people don’t have access to the most basic care. Their health care system is broken and they can’t rely on their own government to fix it. The majority of people can’t afford to get regular medical check-ups, pay for medicines, or even purchase reading glasses to function properly on a daily basis. Yes, it’s absolutely wonderful that there are people willing to utilize their talents, invest their own money, and commit their time with organizations to provide health care to communities in another country; but, it’s also really sad that it has to be that way.
As I reflected on the condition of the people of the Philippines, I thought a little bit more and it registered that there are many people like that in the United States. There are people of all ages that don’t have access to basic health care; or if they have access, it’s still unaffordable.
Now, I don’t “do” politics. I’m not going to go on a rant about the U.S. health care system. But, I do want to communicate that this is one of the significant reasons why I want to be a doctor. It’s not for the money or the title. It’s not because I want to make myself feel better by “saving” other people or “curing” their illness. No, it’s because I want to make a difference in someone else’s life. I want to serve the people who are swept aside, forgotten, or ignored. I want to serve people who don’t have access to or cannot afford health care regardless of the reason. I want to do something that will make a difference, even if I’m the person forgotten when it’s all said and done. I will make a difference in the world, but I have to start at home – in these United States of America.