From the 4th – 11th of July, twelve medical students had the opportunity to join Dr Charlotte Hespe on her biannual trip to the Philippines. The purpose of the trip was to provide healthcare to a displaced community in Calauan, Laguna. Dr Hespe began her aid to this community in 2010, and in five short years it has grown exponentially. Aside from providing medical care, the set-up now includes an eye clinic, a women’s health clinic, a feeding program for malnourished children and a dentistry clinic that includes preventative dental care. With these clinics being run both in July and November, the care aims to provide more than a band-aid solution to the health conditions suffered by community members. Furthermore, the community now has its own well-resourced pharmacy, staffed by a locally trained community member who can monitor long-term health conditions diagnosed on the visits.
In addition to having a significant impact on the lives of those in the Calauan community, we medical students were given the unique opportunity to synthesise our medical knowledge with our clinical skills in an environment that contained cultural and language barriers. The July trip was fortunate enough to have the assistance of MED1000 tutors Dr Milana Votrubec and Dr Seamus Duffy, who were available to oversee our patient consultations and teach us more hands-on knowledge than could ever be obtained in a classroom. Other valuable travel companions included members of Barney’s church, whose contribution in the success of these trips is essential.
After a phenomenal week of seeing everything from exotic skin rashes to major lacerations, the week ended on a great note, with the Philippines government extending their support to the program. This financial aid will allow the team to improve their resources, in the hope that future trips will be able to diagnose and treat major conditions that burden the community such as tuberculosis. With the continual support of both Barney’s and Notre Dame, the impact on the Calauan community can continue to grow.