July 29, 2009
Let me say this at the outset that today was an unforgettable day. It started off when Kenny came by at 5 AM to pick me up from the hotel so we could go jogging. I was looking forward to this all along since I hadn’t had a proper run in a while. He took me to a sports complex where there was an outdoor track, tennis courts, basketball courts, and other sports facilities. I enjoyed my pleasant jog amongst the multitude of Filipinos squeezing in a workout right before work/school and before the scorching sun could make its presence felt. After working out, we walked by the seashore for a bit and Kenny elaborated more on the plight of the Mindanao. As I have mentioned, he is an informed, intelligent, and very mature guy. After having succumbed to another photo-snapping frenzy, we made our way to the Silsala community center. Since we were pretty hungry, I grabbed a delcious breakfast at the center while Dr. Madale proceeded to read my fortune through my signature and thenar (palm) creases. Fortunately, he had only good things to say. Also, I got to learn more about how he met is current wife. Kenny and I dubbed his wooing and dating strategies as the Madale Method. We all had a good laugh. Following breakfast, I gained permission from Dr. Russell to go visit the Ataneo de Zamboango University School of Medicine (http://som.adzu.edu.ph/).
I had been meaning to find out more about the way medical education is structured here and after reviewing the AZUSOM model last night, I was thoroughly excited about the opportunity to learn more. We first met the University President, Father Antonio, who was extremely generous with his time and in his humble approach as he assured me that he would do everything he could to help secure my participation in the University. He proceeded to arrange a meeting with the Dean of Medicine. I headed on over to the medical school, which is on the same campus as their other education programs (elementary, high school, college, and graduate school). The Philippines’ educational institutions aren’t as rigidly separated as those in the United States so its common to have campuses combined. At the medical school, one of the students gave us a quick tour of their school. I toured the library to find similar textbooks that we use at Feinberg (School of Medicine, Northwestern University) but they were all old editions. We are extremely lucky and blessed in the US to have the facilities and privileges that we do as medical students. After the tour, I got a chance to speak to the Dean of Medicine, Dr. Christobel, who was on his way to the public hospital.
Dr. Christobel was extremely nice and made time in his schedule to meet with me later in the day and also invited me to come to the hospital to shadow his students. While driving over, he explained his school’s revolutionary model, which is only shared by a total of 7 other medical schools in the entire world. They refer to their model as the “Community-based Medical School Model”. Instead of the traditional didactic and clinical tracks, the students primarily learn through a Problem Based Learning approach within a community context. The students are divided up into groups once they are admitted where each group is assigned a community to work with for the next four years. The school tries to emphasize the importance of public health values and principles in their medical education as the students learn to be facilitators in the community’s empowerment. Additionally, the school recruits local students in order to encourage their retention in their communities and prevent a “brain drain”. Concurrently, while they engage in their medical training in the community model approach, the students pursue their Masters in Public Health degrees. Essentially, AZUSOM is an MD/MPH school. I love their model and values (interesting video: http://som.adzu.edu.ph/newsupdates/index.php?id=1).
Dr. Christobel brought us over to the hospital where he introduced us to the medical students on their internship rotations. The students were wonderful to talk to as they explained a lot about their curriculum and their particular experiences. Then, they presented the cases they were assigned in the Pediatric ward and the ICU. Again, not to deingrate conditions in the Philippines, we Americans are extremely lucky for the standards and facilities that we enjoy. Despite the many disparities that exist in the US, we have successfully stamped out infectious diseases like TB, Malaria, and Polio while improving our neonatal health. Some of the children were suffering from diseases as a result of viral and bacterial intestinal infections, nutritional deficiencies, and poor hygiene and were all squeezed into one hall with beds lined up side to side. Some of these things would make headlines in the US if discovered in our healthcare system. Unfortunately, the Philippines is burdened with both infectious diseases and lifestyle one like diabetes and hypertension. To illustrate this point, I saw a DOTS treatment clinic for TB patients for the first time in my life outside of medical literature. This would be a great place to come and learn more about clinical medicine and I think the training would be extremely valuable.
After thanking the gracious medical students, Kenny and I had lunch at Plameras, a local hot spot. I enjoyed a beef steak, baked clams, and a Knickerbocker for desert. Yummy! Since we had a few hours to burn before my meeting with Dean Christobel, we had the unenviable task in refining my overgrowing hair and beard before I lost my celebrity appeal. We headed to a Filipino salon where I met some interesting hair stylists—to say the least. I got a scalp treatment, a body massage, a hair cut, a shave, and a manicure (without the glossy shine, not a fan, sorry!) all for a price less than that of a haircut in the US. Amazing! After getting my make-over, I met with Dean Christobel to discuss my possible partnership with the institution and I also spoke with another Physician who explained more about their community-based approach. I am excited about the possibility of working with their program. So, anyone who has ideas on obtaining grant money for the Philippines, please give me a shout out. Following my thoroughly engaing and intellectually stimulating day at the medical school, we were able to meet a few of Kenny’s college professors (he had attended Ataneo for college) and also check out a gallery showcasing old artifacts and items belonging to the school. Before we headed back to Silsala, we also stopped by a Cathedral. Again, a well constructed beautiful set-up was the main attraction. As I mentioned before, I don’t like going into places of worship without the intention to pray. This time I did want to pray so I stepped in. After prayer, I spoke to Kenny more about our views on religion and role of faith in people’s lives. As you can imagine, I was pretty tired and hungry by now so we decided to go to Silsala for dinner.
Once I stepped into the center, people didn’t recognize me at first because of my changed appearance but everyone was extremely pleased with my choice including my many young admirers. :) After yet another delicious dinner, I headed back to the hotel. Kenny is going to spend the night here tonight too since we want to practice the dance routine for the Jai Ho song in Slumdog Millionaire. We wanted to perform for the kids as a way to entertain them and show them our gratitude for having invited us. I can’t dance to save my life….this should be rather interesting.