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Washington Hospital Team Participates In Philippines Medical Mission

A Washington Hospital medical team returned earlier this year from the Philippines following a medical mission to a remote area of the country still struggling to recover from the devastating 2013 earthquake and subsequent typhoon.

Part of an annual medical mission organized by the Philippine Medical Society of Northern California (PMSNC), the Washington Hospital medical team spent a week in the Bohol area of the Philippines, located about 600 miles southeast of Manila, treating a wide variety of patients in need of medical, dental and vision care.

Seven doctors, eight nurses and other medical and support staff were a part of the Washington Hospital team; the total PMSNC team totaled 170 medical personnel.

“People lined up to wait for us to arrive and get setup,” Washington Hospital surgeon Dr. Kranthi Achanta, said. “It was a very rewarding experience to be able to provide needed medical care to so many individuals who had suffered trauma from the earthquake and typhoon.”

Dr. Brian E. Smith, a Washington Hospital anesthesiologist, said the medical mission “had three operating rooms running all day with cases stacked in as tightly as possible.” He noted that the surgical team completed 66 major surgeries during their stay.

Dr. Smith worked primarily with general surgeons and urologists from Northern California and with Dr. Achanta as well as with four volunteer anesthesiologists from Manila and another anesthesiologist from Tennessee.

“They (the local anesthesiologists) taught me how they work under sometimes challenging conditions. I have been to Uganda, Equador, Nepal and Mongolia with other organizations over the years and, as is typically the case on these missions, I learned a lot more than I taught,” Dr. Smith added.

A total of 7, 666 patients were seen and treated in the week the mission was in Bohol.

During the mission:

  • 1,782 individuals received dental treatment, including extractions
  • 1, 303 prescription glasses were dispensed
  • 169 one-on-one health education sessions were conducted
  • more than 100 patients underwent cataract surgery for vision improvement
  • 257 diabetes and urinalysis point-of-care tests were administered
  • CPR classes were held for local nurses
  • Nutrition, weight control and exercise classes were held
  • A full-time pharmacy dispensed needed medicines
  • More than 100 major and minor surgeries were completed

Dr. Achanta explained that mission participants volunteer their time and pay their own travel and other expenses.

“Medical missions like this are a way we can give back and make a difference in communities that lack adequate medical infrastructure — whether because of natural disasters like the 2013 earthquake and typhoon in Bohol or for other reasons,” Dr. Achanta said.

The Philippine Medical Society of Northern California has been organizing medical missions to the Philippines for the past 29 years. During that time, more than 350,000 individuals have received medical treatment through the mission program. More than $1 million in medical equipment and supplies has been donated as part of the mission program.

Dr. Carmencita Agcaoili, a critical care pulmonologist and medical director of the Intensivist Program and Critical Care Units at Washington Hospital, is president of the Philippine Medical Society of Northern California. Dr. Agcaoili recruited the Washington Hospital volunteers as well as overseeing the organizing of the medical mission.

“The individuals we see on the mission are those without insurance and those who live in areas where care is not readily available,” Dr. Agcaoili explained.

Dr. Smith added: “We work with a lot of nurses from the Philippines here at Washington Hospital and really appreciate their hard work and caring attitude so it seemed natural to go there and try to give something back to their country.”