The Bicol Trip was one of the best-spent months of my life and more than I ever could have wished for my last summer off in medical school. When I applied for the program, I was looking to have an experience abroad because I never got to study abroad in college, and I hoped it would have at least a little pertinence to my medical school (and be more interesting than doing research). This trip was way more than I could have hoped for. For starters, we were in the Bicol Region of the Philippines, a country I knew NOTHING about. It was beyond gorgeous. Absolutely stunning. Our dormitory style living was luxuriously overlooking a stunning bay with a view of a volcano. The area was tropical in feeling making runs super scenic with fresh water springs and coconut tree valleys. In the mornings sometimes we'd go do yoga on the dock, which is the epitome of peaceful.
Aside from the gorgeous scenery, the clinic was an amazing experience. Our group included 3 doctors, 4 fourth years, and 8 first year medical students. The older students and doctors were extremely helpful, teaching us both by example and by direct guidance. The Nepalese doctors were like walking encyclopedias who not only taught us how to perform proper exams but also quizzed us on medical principles. We also got to perform small cyst removals and wound care, which was really exciting. There truly was never a dull moment and having people who treated us as medical professionals really pushed us to learn more. One week, 2 ENT surgeons and their nurse came to join us. We each got to shadow them for a day in the nearby town's OR, which was amazing. All in all, we got some invaluable hands on experience that made me much more confident in my ability to perform full H and Ps and to start clinical rotations.
An amazing part of the clinic was how appreciative our patients were. We saw some really intense cases, especially because many of the patients do not have access to routine medical care. Some of the most impressive and tragic cases we saw included late stage cancers, stroke patients, Hirschprung's disease, a number of heart murmurs, Rheumatic Fever, and bilateral congenital cataracts. We kept a wish list of patient surgeries we hope to sponsor someday. The need is much greater than what we were able to provide but the impact we had on the over 2000 patients we saw was really apparent. Each day at lunch, one student would present a particularly interesting case or topic to the group and we'd conduct a small discussion on clinical presentation and treatments. The learning experience was incredibly fulfilling and it was amazing to feel like we could make an impact at such an early stage of medical school.
On the weekends, we took excursions to some of the fresh water springs and beautiful beaches endemic to the Philippines. We engaged in the national pastime of karaoke, and danced at our own discos hosted by the Schuster Family. Our group became very close and the nights were always filled with laughter. And I can't go without mentioning the most amazing meals that Momma Tess cooked for us. I'd go to bed excited for breakfast in the morning. Meals of fresh crab and fish, curries, fried rice, lumpia, and the most amazingly sweet pineapple, mango, watermelon, banana, and papaya were an undeniable perk. And of course, we had 2 puppies and the cutest pet baby monkey Jon Jon. All in all, this summer was one of the best I can remember, and I cannot wait for the next time I can get back to the Bicol Clinic.
BCF has dispatched more than 100 medical students, in addition to dozens of American and foreign physicians and nurses, to provide care to more than 14,000 patients in the Philippines, Nepal and Haiti, many of whom had never before seen a physician. Our team members also volunteer in orphanages and schools to extend health care to other aspects of life. We’d love for you to be Part of the Start!Join Our Team