Volunteer: Aaron Denson

Volunteer
  • During:

    2010

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My Bicol Clinic experience...
Philippines, 2011

The first time I left for the trip, I had no idea who Dr. Mitchell Schuster was. I didn't know how to pronounce Bicol, I didn't know what kind of bed would be available, or what kind of medicine I would be doing. My brother, who "told me about the trip" said only the following: You should go, its really really hot, the food is amazing, and don't catch TB, but it is awesome." He is not known for his communicational skills. So I got signed up and packed my bags. The next month really was life changing for me. I knew I loved to travel, and I knew I would like medicine, but I had not realized the opportunities that are available to me. I stayed in luxury at times, was pampered, and stuffed full of philippino delicacy. I also experienced a brand new culture, where poverty, suffering, and death are exceedingly common experiences. I experienced a wide range of emotion. Most often, like at home, I had an obnoxiously large grin on my face. There were other times when I felt depressed or helpless. Notably, when I watched a husband ask repeatedly what could be done for his wife, even though we all knew the answer...nothing. I remember when Dr. Cirasano told me that there was no chance she would be alive in one year. I'm not sure we helped that patient, but I like to think we provided some sense of comfort. There were countless others that I can say with 100 percent confidence are better off after visiting our clinic. It was a great opportunity, not only for the patients, but for me. I was exposed to a wide range of diseases from military TB to Neurofibromatosis. I was given one on one attention with attendees. The best part of the clinic is the learning environment and work culture. Students are encouraged and not threatened, pushed but not pressured. It really is an ideal place to learn for a medical student. I have made two trips to the Bicol clinic, and I know I will be a better physician thanks to my experiences. I learned more than I could have hoped and had a lot of fun doing it. Every day at the Bicol Clinic is enjoyable, whether we are in clinic, at the beach, or visiting a market. Returning to see my patients from the year before was also very rewarding for me. I would recommend the trip to anyone, not only to help the people who struggle in Bicol on a daily basis, but for themselves and the experience I know they will have.

Aaron Denson
Tulane University
School of Medicine
Class of 2013

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