Drs. "Menchie" Carmencita and Armando Damian at Band Aid Bash 2013.

World Wednesday: Philippines – 3 Decades of Medical Missions

By Meghan Shroyer

In the Philippines, about 30 million people have no access to health care. Even those with insurance cannot afford to get treated due to the scarcity of medical supplies and lack of funding. “The only things that are free are room and board, and medical service. Patients have to buy everything — from cotton balls to anesthetics. They have to go out and buy the needed supplies before the surgery can be done,” said Dr. Armando Damian, a longtime MedWish partner, who recently visited us along with his wife, Dr. Carmencita “Menchie” Damian.


As retired physicians and members of the APPO (Association of Philippine Physicians of Ohio), Menchie and her husband lead medical missions to the Philippines each year with the help of supplies that they gather from MedWish. The organization brings about 80 volunteers (40-50 of which are doctors and nurses), and spends 4 to 5 days hosting clinics in various schools, tents, gymnasiums, or town halls (wherever they are able to utilize the most amount of space) to treat roughly 4,000 patients on each trip.

Planning these medical missions is no small task. The process begins one year in advance, as they must make an initial visit to the site of the next mission, fundraise, and then collect, sort, pack and ship the supplies. The budget for each trip usually ranges from $35,000 to $40,000 to cover the cost of medications they much purchase, supplies and equipment they get from MedWish, freight shipment for all these items and the pre-operative screening and testing.

APPO partners with the local medical society for post-care and referrals to have the patients screened before the volunteers arrive to maximize their time during the mission and ensure patients have access to care after they leave.

Despite limited resources, the group is still able to treat a wide array of illnesses. However, if cases require long-term care, or supplies that the mission does not have, they will find a way for the patient to be treated. “We have a network with biggest hospitals in the city and we help with the funding,” Armando said.

“We wouldn’t be able to perform surgery if it weren’t for MedWish,” said Armando. Before their trips, APPO volunteers assemble an assortment of supplies to outfit their missions. The most crucial items in particular are operating room supplies: gowns, gloves, sponges, scrubs, caps, and masks. These supplies are vital for patient safety and infection control. Space is at a premium, and surgeons perform up to 250 surgeries during each trip.


This is a crowded operating room with surgeons relying on MedWish supplies from gloves, masks and gowns to sponges and surgical instruments.

This photo was taken during the February 2013 medical mission, which was its 32nd consecutive trip.

“We grew up with MedWish and have watched it progress,” Armando said. APPO began partnerwing with us in the late 1990’s, when it was run only by volunteers and had very limited storage space. Since then, they have been coming back to MedWish to supply each of their medical missions. In total, APPO has served about 120,000 patients.


Our growth over the past several years has helped Armando, Menchie and APPO get more of the supplies they need to address critical health shortages in their home country. We are grateful partners to this amazing group of people.

This APPO crowd is the kind of people who knows how to celebrate life….”with malice toward none, with charity for all”-Abraham Lincoln.

by Varifiesta on July 11, 2013

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