It’s been well over a month since my internship ended, however it’s taken me some time to reflect on my experience and process my thoughts and feelings. I’ve developed a better understanding of the healthcare system here – what is present and what is lacking; what requires improvement. I’ve witnessed the health challenges that have left me frustrated: unsanitary conditions, lack of space and resources, insufficient staffing. I’ve interacted with the community of Tondo, where residents can barely afford food. They live in dirty and poor living conditions, with piles of waste and wood collected and put together to form temporary homes. Children swim in dirty water. Families share homes.
Witnessing all of this left me frustrated – that there are people in these circumstances, but also because I currently have no power to change anything. However, through working with the health workers and serving the clinic patients, I came to realize something important: I’m supposed to be frustrated. I’m supposed to be angry, but also determined and empowered to enact change. I am meant to take these experiences with me so I can equip myself in medical school with the skills needed to return to these health issues and address them.
Despite what is lacking in material goods, the Philippines has so much in terms of family and relationships. The sense of community is overwhelming and makes me reflect on my own communities at home and what I can do to further strengthen and unite them. After witnessing the genuine interactions between health professionals and patients, I see the importance in being compassionate and personable so that I can develop trusting relationships with patients. I strive to live by these qualities in the future as I care for my patients.
I have also learned a lot through learning Tagalog. Making that extra effort to learn their native language made Filipinos happy, more comfortable talking to me, and excited to teach me more. Learning Tagalog helped both of us overcome that language barrier and connect on a more personal and human level. From this experience, I recognize the importance of breaking down language and cultural barriers in healthcare and aim to work towards achieving this goal.
I will never forget all the experiences gained and lessons learned through this fellowship. The Philippines, the people that I’ve met, and their stories have left a deep mark on me and I will never forget them. I will carry them with me as I go about my studies and pursue a career in medicine. They will be a reminder of my goals, the future that I hope for, and the kind of physician I aspire to be. They will be the family that I’ll hold close to my heart and return to in the future when I am more equipped with resources and skills to effectively create change.
So, for now… bye Philippines, until next time. Ingat~