Seeing a Different Side of Medicine
Three TouroCOM Harlem Students Join FIMRC Mission in Philippines
Few people would find a seventeen-hour flight to the Philippines relaxing, but for three TouroCOM Harlem students who just finished their first year of medical school, the flight was exactly what they needed.
“It was nice to finally sleep,” laughed Stephanie Morales, who noted that the flight left a day after their final exams.
Morales together with fellow students Brandon Chavez and Hector Zelaya spent two weeks in the Philippines volunteering with the Federation for International Medical Relief for Children (FIMRC). Morales, who encouraged her peers to join her on the trip, said she was attracted to the mission of FIMRC.
“They are really focused on empowering the community members,” said Morales. “They’re not a foreign organization that promises to fix things.”
This was demonstrated by how FIMRC works. Local community members in the town of Mendez led the three students around the neighborhood as they went door-to-door to check on the health of residents.
“For me, the most impressive thing was the time and effort the community members put in with us,” said Morales. “They didn’t get paid and they had their own jobs, but they’d volunteer to make sure their friends could lead healthier lives. Instead of a stranger telling them what to do, they had their friend encouraging them to live better.”
The most prevalent issue was hypertension and the students advised residents about basic life-style changes like avoiding alcohol and tobacco. The students also performed dengue and malaria patrols, looking for still water where mosquitos that carry the diseases breed.
Zelaya said that he found the culture of the Philippines inspiring.
“Even though they live in what we consider an impoverished community, they still have an upbeat and positive outlook on life,” said Zelaya. “The culture is so rich and the people are genuinely happy. My takeaway is that you can find and create happiness even in places you might not expect.”
"The Philippines was such a heartwarming experience,” said Chavez. “From treating patients with OMM to taking cold bucket showers. I have been able to see parts of medicine I would have never experienced at home."
The last few days of the trip the trio visited the general hospital in Manila and spent time in the pediatric and regular cancer ward.
“It was really touching to spend some time with these young kids and adults who don’t get many visitors,” said Morales who helped run an arts-and-crafts workshop.
“Many of the cancer patients travelled from far away and were alone in the hospital,” added Zelaya. “We were able to provide them with some basic human contact.”
Morales said the one of the more remarkable instances happened when she returned. She asked the organization if she could set up a fundraiser for some medications. A member of the organization declined.
“They’re thinking long-term and trying to move away from the donation model,” said Morales. “They’re very adamant about empowering the community to fix itself.”