Written by Dale Ng
Dale Ng is a second-year medical student from the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health (ASMPH) in the Philippines. ASMPH is one of the SOLACE partners. Dale just completed a 2-week immersion program in the province of Northern Samar where he faced the challenges and triumphs in this low-resourced area first hand. Hospital GB Tan is in the municipality of Laoang, where one of our SOLACE hubs is located. We asked Dale to write about his experiences. Here is his report. Thank you, Dale, for taking the time to reflect.
First, resiliency. Northern Samar is one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines and this, you can imagine, highly affects the resource allocation of the hospital GB Tan. But what struck me upon meeting the hospital staff was a sense of resiliency. Most of the staff have been serving the hospital tirelessly for decades. One of the staff I met has been working there for most of his life, and yet he still continues to try to learn how to use a computer for the sake of following Philhealth guidelines. Hearing stories like these and much more showed me that despite the setbacks the past decades have brought (the devolution of the health system being a major one), there was still willingness to serve, learn and overcome, in spite of the difficulty and lack of resources.
Medical students learning from GB Tan pharmacist Rowena Casingcasing
But what was different and striking about their resiliency, I later realized, was that it was filled with so much hope. In contrast to a resilience associated with stagnation, their resiliency was filled with a hope that indeed someday, GB Tan will rise again and be the hospital that it has the potential to be. In talking to these people, I discovered a hope which moves you into action to come up with solutions against unfavorable odds and wicked problems. This hope moves them to negotiate and discuss with each other, and just really work together as one community. Sitting in during their meetings, I saw staff who didn’t just settle and accept the status quo, and I saw them genuinely put their heart into service to improve the hospital. It was here where I saw not just hope but hope put into action.
Dale with fellow medical students after the nurses’ regular meeting
But, to quote what Doc Ginger and Doc Fonsy said during our processing, what usually comes after a feeling of hope is despair. It was frustrating for me to encounter problems that I wasn’t good enough to solve. It made me feel a despair that maybe our hopes may never be realized and that the problem may be too overwhelming to solve within our lifetime. I imagine that some of the staff may feel that way too.
But maybe this feeling of despair is okay, because it is also this despair which tells us that we are trying hard enough. At least this despair tells us that we are dreaming and hoping big enough. At least this despair can push us to become better. It is when we get through despair wherein we can hope again.
All of this and more I have learned from the staff at GB Tan. To be as resilient as I am hopeful, and to become more at ease with despair and uncertainty. Though I may not be fully satisfied with what I was able to do (only so much can be done in 14 days), I know that this will push me to become the best future doctor I can become in service of the people. I will celebrate this little victory, because in Northern Samar, locals also showed me that there is always something to celebrate. Thank you GB Tan for teaching me so much. I will see you again.
Medical students who completed their 2-week extra-curricular immersion in GB Tan last June