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INTERNATIONAL MEDICINE: Report from the Tarlac Medical Mission


Note: On Jan. 20-24, the Philippine Medical Society of Northern California (PMSNC) led a medical mission to Tarlac Province to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan, the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record. The storm, which struck on Nov. 8, 2013, killed more than 6,200 people. The following report by Dr. José is addressed to the 40 physicians and other volunteers who joined the Tarlac Medical Mission.

Many of you have emailed to tell us how fortunate you have been for joining this medical mission.

To these volunteers, we would like to tell you, the pleasure is all ours. Thank you very much for being part of this medical mission to Tarlac Province. Your medical, surgical, dental and prosthetic services have changed lives. Arguably, you have been the most pleasant and giving volunteers that have joined a PMSNC medical mission.

Five thousand patients were seen and treated, but more importantly, more complex surgeries were performed in Tarlac than in any other missions, and these surgeries have drastically changed lives.

This mission covered mostly all the surgical specialties, from general and minor surgery, plastic surgery, ob-gyn, urology and ophthalmology (mainly canalization for glaucoma). Dr. Stephen Post, our ophthalmologist, lectured and trained one of the local ophthalmologists at the Tarlac Eye Center on the surgical management of glaucoma. Finally, as in the past two missions, we again had our human engineer who fitted prosthetics and taught patients how to walk and use their new arms. Many people were teary-eyed at seeing a legless person walk again, an armless person hold a pen and write again.

The surgery census was as follows:

  • General: 45 surgeries. Triage consult without surgery was 449.
  • Orthopedic surgery: 3 major ones.
  • Plastic surgery: 28.
  • Ob-gyn: 24.
  • Minor surgery: 142.
  • Ophthalmology: 21, mostly canalization for glaucoma.
  • Prosthetics team fitted 55 but including follow-ups saw 105.

The rest of the 5,000 patients were seen in the outpatient clinics, where the dental team served 1,273, pulmonology-respiratory 42, ob-gyn 53, pediatrics 1,100 and primary care-adult medicine 1,715.

Volunteer surgeons came from all over the United States. For the first time in the history of the Tarlac Medical Mission, non-PMSNC volunteer surgeons and anesthesiologists outnumbered PMSNC member surgeons and anesthesiologists. From information received, these nonmember volunteers admired the humanitarian mission that the PMSNC has been doing for the past 29 years and decided to take a look and be a part of these humanitarian endeavors.

Primary care physician volunteers for the mission came from all over California. In addition, Governor Victor Yap of Tarlac, our sponsor, mobilized local health center physicians to help see patients in the outpatient department.

It is gratifying to know that in some token and minute way, the PMSNC medical missions are finally being seen for what they are: helping and making a difference in destitute people’s lives. We have the utmost confidence that the PMSNC will thrive even more, with Dr. Carmen Agcaoili as president and Dr. Peter Bretan as president-elect.

The encouragement and support of the PMSNC members who were in Tarlac has been unwavering, with no recompense or prodding. They volunteer their time in the service of the poor and also in honor of the PMSNC, a medical society that they have cherished and loved. In this medical mission, the PMSNC was represented by the following members: Drs. Rey and Marlene Cordero, Dr. Carmen Agcaoili, Dr. Peter Bretan, Drs. Ric and Claire De Leon, Dr. Madeleine Hernandez and Dr. Marlene Salvador. Our personal thanks to all of them. You have represented the PMSNC with vigor and honor.

To all the doctors, dentists, prosthetists, nurses, students and support group, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You have made our work coordinating this medical mission enjoyable and meaningful.

To Governor Victor Yap, the entire officialdom of the Province of Tarlac, including Vice-Governor Kit Cojuangco, Board Member Christy Angeles, Project Coordinator Gab Hayashi, the governor’s office, and others, too many to mention, we speak on behalf of the entire Tarlac Medical Mission Team: thank you for welcoming us with open hearts. We extend our great appreciation to all of Tarlac Province, for giving us the opportunity to help the province’s marginalized and poor. This experience will long linger in our collective and individual consciousness.

Thank you.


Dr. José, a retired Napa psychiatrist and pediatrician, is the medical mission coordinator for the Philippine Medical Society of Northern California.

Email: irwinjose@comcast.net