Bicol Clinic Foundation, Inc.
Upon arriving in Manila, the group of jet-lagged Tulanians with whom I traveled wearily enjoyed a night's rest in the prestigious Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel. The next morning, we enjoyed a luxurious five-star breakfast. Suddenly, by afternoon, we found ourselves transported to the rustic, charming accommodations of the Bicol Clinic, near the town of Rizal, located across Sorsogon Bay from and under the shadow of the Bulusan Volcano. The hospitality to greet us became immediately apparent. Tess Schuster labored over elaborate home-made meals, Dr. Schuster shared his vast wealth of knowledge - medicine and otherwise - while balancing the responsibilities of running a new clinic. Jessica and Jennifer Schuster executed the complex challenges of maintaining the vast infrastructure of a clinic, dormitory, and kitchen in remote jungle. We, as students, were therefore liberated of daily tasks and liberated to pursue that for which we had traveled: immersion in a medical role in a land foreign to most of us. The medical cases were exciting and challenging, and the people were as friendly and happy as the view of the bay was dramatic and beautiful. Everywhere we went, whether to clinic or to town, we were greeted by smiling faces and happy children. All the while, we practiced and refined our skills in medicine. Most days, the clinic saw over a hundred cases, with students gaining experience in clinical diagnoses, medical management, and surgical intervention. Students even gained experience as peer teachers, with supervision and guidance coming from the experienced Dr. Schuster and two excellent Nepalese attending physicians. Upon leaving Sorsogon Bay, I left behind many of my former insecurities in medicine, especially by escaping the luxury of extensive lab testing, studies, and diagnostic imaging. I also learned something from the brave people, old and too-often young, who face disease with little hope of curing disease due to lack of infrastructure yet who maintain their happiness and dignity by choosing to embrace their life as it exists over despair. As a future physician, I hope to honor the Bicol Clinic motto and "Be Part of the Start."
BCF has dispatched more than 150 medical students, in addition to dozens of American and foreign physicians and nurses, to provide care to more than 75,000 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