Volunteer: John (Andrew) Younghein

Volunteer
  • During:

    2011

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Bicol Clinic Foundation, Inc.
Philippines, 2011

The month that I was fortunate enough to spend in Bicol was one that I shall never forget. Beyond the medical experience, the trip was a lesson in humanity that will echo in my life. I have never interacted with people who were so gracious, thankful and genuine, but whose lives were not shown the respect that they deserved by their health care system.

Prior to landing in the Philippines, I had very little appreciation for the power that the availability of medicine has to influence lives. In a system such as ours, even the poorest of the poor have access to life saving medical care, however, in the Philippines, as in many nations throughout the world, money is the deciding factor in determining whether someone lives or dies from a treatable condition. It was an extremely powerful realization when I discovered that the cost of a human life could be given a monetary value. For the child with Typhoid fever, it was the price of antibiotic, for the woman with inflammatory breast cancer, the cost of her surgery and so forth. The cost is too often the only difference between living and dying for these unfortunate many. I have to say that the burden of this preventable loss of life does not rest on the shoulders of the many people of the region who are themselves without means, but lies with those who have the ability to make a difference but are either unaware or indifferent to the plight of the many. It is difficult to consider how although we were able to see an extraordinary amount of patients during the month, this was just one area, of one nation, in a world full of people without access to even basic medical care.

The power however comes in knowing that 5 doctors, 9 medical students and 6 nurses were able to have a great effect, and if others in the medical profession were willing to make a similar effort every year, that global impact could be felt.

The 2011 Bicol clinic was a world-opening experience, and although it started for me as a prospect to further my medical education, it truly became an education in humanism and the gift of life.

J. Andrew Younghein
Tulane University
Medical Student

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