Medical Missions

Filipino medical students call for more representation in medicine

The Filipino Canadian Medical Association’s vision is to provide a forum for physicians to meet, share their values, develop their goals, and impart their wisdom onto the younger generation.

However, research has demonstrated a lack of representation of Filipino students in Canadian medical schools, despite a strong Filipino presence in other sectors of healthcare, particularly nursing. This disparity has led to a call for further inquisition and greater representation for Filipinos in medicine by the Filipino Association for Medical Students (FAMS), an organization within the University of Toronto’s Medical Society. Thus, over the past year, the FCMA has partnered with the FAMS to provide access to resources such as mentorship, scholarships, and volunteer opportunities. 

An article written by University of Toronto medical students Gian Agtarap and Braydon Francis further delves into this disparity, and what steps are being taken to resolve it: https://philippinereporter.com/index.php/2020/01/24/filipino-medical-students-call-for-more-representation-in-medicine/

As the FCMA continues to move forward in our goals of strengthening the Filipino-Canadian medical community, we hope that you join us in supporting these bright and aspiring physicians.

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FCMA's 34th Annual Gala

On May 11th, the Filipino Canadian Medical Association held its 34th fundraising gala for their 2020 medical mission. With Renaissance by the Creek setting the stage for a beautiful evening, over 100 guests arrived to dine, dance, and learn more about FCMA’s humanitarian work. 

Highlights of the 2018 medical and dental mission, which served the communities of Alitagtag, Batangas and Tacloban City, were featured during the gala. Testimonies given by members of the mission trip, as well as pictures of the community members that were served emphasized how meaningful the work was, and how more work remains to be done. With the generosity of many patrons, FCMA was able to successfully raise funds to support the 2020 medical mission. 

In addition to FCMA’s focus on humanitarian work, another key topic was brought to attention that evening. A presentation completed by University of Toronto medical students, and their supervising faculty member, Dr. Ivy Oandasan, highlighted the need for greater representation of Filipinos in the medical field. With tangible measures in place to allow for greater accessibility and diversity in medical education, the future remains hopeful for the next generation of Filipino-Canadian physicians.

An already special night was made even more so with the presence of Toronto’s chief medical officer, Dr. Eileen De Villa, who initiated a call to action for the physicians present to assist in the efforts to increase the Filipino-Canadian medical community. Other distinguished guests included Senator Dr. Asha Seth and previous mayor of Brampton Susan Fennell. 

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FCMA Completes Second Week-Long Medical Mission

As if it was answering a higher calling, the Filipino-Canadian Medical Association, under the leadership of Dr. Chelly Silva, has organized and recently completed a week-long medical, dental and relief mission in the Philippines, the second such mission in two years.

Five FCMA doctors (Drs. Filomena Bautista, Flordicante Cabilan, Lita Malig, Judith Nacua, Chelly Silva), one Canadian doctor (Dr. Sanja Avdic), and one dentist (Dr. Shirley Salazar) took time off from their busy schedules to deliver free medical and dental services to the local populations of 14 municipalities in Leyte and Palawan in February 2015.

Assisted by a nurse (Emily Bambao), two pharmacists (Lita Villanueva, Anan Abounnasar), an accountant (Dylinda P. Santiago), and 21 non- medical volunteers (Phyllis Agostino, Zlatan Avdic, Sarah Bayani, Alfredo Bayani, Donin Bayani, Ophelia Bholat, Poy Cana, Ligaya Cana, Eliezer Concepcion, Lilia Concepcion, Ed Hoegi, Pilar Hoegi, Marilen Iliscupides, Mila Magno, Oswald Magno, John Ogden, Joyce Ogden, Rose P. Koenig, Rachel Pantaleon, Ariel Santos, Maria Santos) from Toronto, Mississauga and other parts of Ontario, the mission provided free medical, minor surgery and dental services, and dispensed free prescription medicines, vitamins, toothbrushes, toothpastes and reading glasses to hundreds of indigent patients that came from various barangay communities in Tacloban City, El Nido, Puerto Princesa and neighbouring towns.

Scenes of droves of people lining up and waiting patiently in front of the temporary pharmacies set up by the mission highlighted the dire need for prescription medicines, which many residents are unable to afford.

Fortunately, the mission brought with it 22 balikbayan boxes containing donated medications (including medicines from Health Partner International Canada), inhalers and essential medical test kits and supplies. A Toronto pharmacy, Agnes Pharmacy, donated over $10,000 worth of medications plus a $3,000 cash donation. Surplus medications and supplies were later given to the local municipal health centers, the Daughters of St. Paul, the Divine Word Hospital, Tacloban City Hospital, Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center, and Philippine General Hospital.

In Tacloban City, the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center and the Tacloban City Hospital served as the venues for the delivery of medical consultation services (pediatrics, family and internal medicine and minor surgery) while the Divine Word Hospital run by the Benedictine Sisters served as the venue for the delivery of dental services.

Inspired by the FCMA initiative, several local doctors, dentists, nurses and other volunteers in the three locales also participated in delivering much needed medical and dental services to the local population, many of whom are still reeling from the devastation caused by super typhoon Haiyan.

In Tacloban, 21 medical doctors and surgeons and 10 dentists participated in the mission. They were assisted by 32 registered nurses, and 25 non- medical personnel. TESDA fielded 63 volunteers who provided free manicure, pedicure, hair cutting and chair massage to waiting patients. In Puerto Princesa and El Nido, 2 local doctors participated, assisted by 26 registered nurses and 20 non-medical personnel.

Dr. Silva, FCMA President, directed and supervised the mission, while Mr. Clem Cabillan coordinated provision by the local police and other volunteers of crowd control and various logistical services.

From last year’s gala fundraiser, FCMA purchased and distributed 68 locally made fiberglass motorized fishing boats to fishermen families who lost their boats and livelihood due to typhoon Haiyan. “There are many ways we can help our needy kababayans, and medical missions are just one of them” says Dr. Silva, a graduate of UP School of Medicine.

The association is presently planning a feeding program and medical assistance mission for mentally and physically disabled children in the Philippines.

Reporting by Mila Magno

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Thank You FCMA, Mission Accomplished!

Thank You FCMA, Mission Accomplished!

Anita “Nitz” Fraser and myself, Marilen “Mayen” Iliscupides, both from Southern California, were lucky to be associated with the Filipino-Canadian Medical Association (“FCMA”) as volunteers on its medical mission to Batangas, Tacloban, and Cebu on February 16, 2018 thru February 28, 2018.  On our first day, we met up with this incredible FCMA group of around 30 volunteers at the Manila NAIA airport.   

Off we went on a bus trip for the first day of FCMA’s two-day medical mission to Alitagtag, Batangas.

To say that the Alitagtag mission was a success is an understatement.  A huge gymnasium that was converted to an all-in-one makeshift processing center, medical examining area, dental office, pharmacy and optical dispensing units, were run like clockwork by eager, able and happy FCMA volunteers and local doctors and nurses. The FCMA medical doctors, Coeliflor Silva, Filo Bautista, Zenia Sanchez, Richard Mah, Sanja Avdic, and Ryan Figueroa, as well as dentist Shirley Salazar, each had their own office/station.  Patients were lined up and everyone had the chance to be evaluated and treated by the doctors.

The pharmacy section handled a lot of patients waiting for advice and medication.  It was manned by pharmacist Lita Villanueva, nurses, Lilia Concepcion, Marilyn Domondon, Beth Gleisner, Nitz Fraser, Emily Dumalao, and Beth Silagan. Additional help came from Dylinda Santiago, Rose Koenig, Patricia Mah, Poy and Ligaya Cana, Elie Concepcion, and myself.  Ligaya and I were also kept busy at the optical section dispensing reading glasses. It was heartwarming to see the more than one thousand Alitagtag residents patiently waiting their turn. The two days went smoothly with the help of local security who did an excellent job at crowd control.  From conversations gathered from the residents, it was a medical mission that was very much anticipated and appreciated. The residents expressed their gratitude profusely after receiving treatment, medical advice, and medications.

On to Tacloban on February 20, 2018 for the second two-day mission where we were joined by Dr. Judith Nacua, Gerrard Silagan, and Shirley Aquintey.

It was held at the EVMR Regional Medical Center.  The turnout was a resounding success!  Over two thousand residents of Tacloban and neighboring barangays were brought in by bus in batches.  With the assistance from the volunteer staff at EVMR and the hospital’s resources, the FCMA volunteers’ work were not as daunting as it looked.  Each department was set up in different parts of the building and on the grounds.  Even strong rains and wind did not stop the volunteers from doing their job.  By the way, there were some relaxing moments too. Want a mani-pedi?  Just stroll over to one corner of the grounds and presto! Beautiful nails!  Still stressed out?  How about a massage?  Right this way!  Plus, delicious lunch and snacks.  The residents of Tacloban were treated to a rejuvenation of mind and body which they so richly deserve.

This medical mission, and the people behind it and in front of it,  were all testaments to the good in people.  From organizers Clem Cabillan and Dr. Coeli Silva, who were tirelessly on top of everything throughout the mission; to the doctors, health professionals and staff who donated their valuable time; to Mr. Edgar Adan, Dr. Gemma Pastolero, Dr. Judith Nacua and Girlie Maglalang, for inviting us to their beautiful homes for a day of fun and food; and most especially to the residents of Alitagtag and Tacloban, for their resiliency.

And now to the other part of the medical mission, or as one volunteer said, “a vacation with a mission”. On to Cebu on February 23, 2018 for several days of relaxation and fun!

I’ll sum up this “vacay-sion” in one word, exhilarating!  Snorkeling, parasailing and swimming with the butanding at the beautiful Oslob beach!

Several of us were tempted by the beauty of the sea and the butanding, to go take a closer look at the whales.  Although my hands tightly gripped the katig for dear life, I managed to get underwater to take a quick peek at the whales.  They were gentle and harmless. I don’t know about my friend, Nitz Fraser.  Her x-rated number in the water might have scared a few.

Aguinid Falls was so beautiful!  There are 5 levels to maneuver before you get to the top of the falls and reaching level 5 was a test of endurance and camaraderie. I saw Lita Villanueva on Level 3 and heard her say “Ayoko nang umakyat sa itaas.  Hanggang dito na lang ako!”  But before you know it, she’s on level 5 having the time of her life, unscathed except for her pants.   

And parasailing!  Eager beavers were Chit Camaya, Rufina Dumlao, Nitz Fraser and myself! Pure joy! I didn’t think that parasailing would be an itinerary on a medical mission, but hey, Canadians know how to work hard and party hard!

And party we did after hours!  Who needs Max and Val Chmerkovskiy when we have local DIs who can do a mean rumba.

To sum it up, in the words of Nitz Fraser: “What an experience!  Incredible memories up in the sky, under the water, over the table with food galore, and inside the van with hagikhikan!   

See you all next medical mission!”

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