By MAR S. ARGUELLES
NAGA CITY — A surgical mission, a humanitarian project of the Bicol Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C., Inc, (BAMWDC) arrived here last week, bringing back memories of the triumphs and cheers brought here by past medical missions by fellow Filipinos from overseas.
The 26-man volunteer team is complemented by a cadre of doctors, registered nurses and other disciplines of varied competencies, as well as support staff from the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. area of Maryland and Virginia, and from the association’s networking nationally, such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, and Nevada.
Mayor John Bongat who sent the invitation made possible the scheduling in earnest of the mission from Jan. 24 to 28, this year. The initial efforts of Naga City Health Officer Dr. Butch Borja and Bicol Medical Center chief Ruben Peñafiel paved the way for the start of the surgical operations and medical consultations conducted on the city’s marginalized patients.
To Filipinos, whether or not they have taken permanent residency or have become American citizens, coming home to the Philippines usually suggests a happy flurry of activities – visiting relatives, making side trips in time for town fiestas or a religious celebration, going to the beach, and the like. The last thing one does is work! But not to a team of expatriates coming from Metropolitan, Washington, D.C. as members of a surgical team to Naga City.
The head of the delegation is Connie L. Relacion, R.N. (ret.), currently chairman of BAMWDC’s medical mission committee and past president; and Yvonne R. Horneffer, CRNP, currently director and executive vice president, BAMWDC. Also joining the mission for the first time is Leticia J. Alvarez, its president, and Lorna Imperial-Seidel, RN-PhD, vice president for Washington, D.C. Alex P. Yadao, M.D. is the chief of mission as he was in several of the association’s recent missions.
The team is complemented by, as follows: Physicians – Alfredo Casino, M.D. (Surgeon), OH, Praxidio H. Tagala, M.D. (OB-Gyn), PA, Sofronio de la Vega, M.D. (Anaesthesiologist), PA;
Registered Nurses – Vincent B. Bogan, CRNA, VA, Jane R. Rodriguez, RN, BSN, NV, Glenda Newhall, CRNP, Albay, Luther C. Sembria, R.N., VA, Avelina M. Rafi, MSN-ANP, WA;
Respiratory Therapist – Levi C. Cleofe, VA; Plastic Surgical Tech – Cowan Hudson Moore;
Staff Support – Ramonet Alvarez, Logistics, VA, Corazon S. Abundo, Pharmacy, MD, Corazon Ogbac, photo-videography, MD, Dolores Pellas, Supplies, MD, Nicolas R. Relacion, Documentalist, WDC, Joanne Castro Perez, Naga City, Senen Castro Iren, RN, NJ, and Rosalinda Ortega, Manila.
The US volunteer physicians are board-certified and licensed to practice medicine. The extensive paperwork required for the volunteers before practicing medicine in the Philippines have often discouraged some of the doctors who otherwise would have volunteered. These requirements are, however, understandable since the government wants to be assured that the volunteer MDs are qualified to care for their Filipino patients. Also equally important are the medical and surgical supplies which are donated.
As of yesterday, (Wed., Jan 26), 49 surgeries have already been conducted from the total admitted patients of 92 for the duration of the mission. Most of the surgical operations were conducted for thyroid, hernia repairs, repair of cleft lip and palate, gall bladder, and hysterectomy, or removal of the woman’s reproductive organs.
The BAMWDC has been conducting medical missions in Bicol since 1990 and its involvement started in 1988 when Mrs. Puring Naldo-Aquino invited the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) of Washington, D.C. to conduct a medical mission in Sorsogon. Since then, BAMWDC undertook this as one of the projects to provide service to those who cannot afford medical/surgical treatment. The provincial visitations follow a scheme of rotation among the Bicol provinces, except Camarines Norte which is serviced by Bay Area Camarines Norte Association – a co-member of the Bicol National Association of America.
The first in Naga City was in 1997, then in 2005, together with the PMAs of Washington, D.C. and Chicago. To date, it has examined or treated over 24,000 indigent patients who otherwise would not have received treatment and care considering the high cost. In 2012, the BAMWDC medical team is scheduled to visit Sorsogon.