Surgical Society makes the cut
Medical dummies are a necessity in medical schools— they help future doctors practice their medical knowledge and skills without putting real patients at risk. While simulation of these procedures helps medical students with their training, reality is always more complex than theory. A student organization at the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health (ASMPH) has realized the importance of allowing students to participate in supervised surgical missions.
The Surgical Society (SurgSoc) started in 2008 with then ASMPH students Martin Generoso, Cristal Laquindanum, Alfonso Gabriel Vega, Ryan Dalman and Bernadette Angustia. After a focus group discussion on the state of surgery in the Philippines, the group expressed their desire to help.
“They all shared a common goal: to serve communities as medical students with the knowledge and skills they have learned from school and to develop and practice skills as early as during the preclinical years,” said Karl Francis Chan, a third year ASMPH student and current president of SurgSoc.
Now on its 8th year, SurgSoc continues to fulfill its vision of “transforming communities by forming generations of doctors capable of responding to the shifting demands of the Philippine society towards the execution and delivery of surgical care.”
To achieve this, SurgSoc members undergo training on Basic Operating Room practices. The organization also conducts talks by surgeons to give students a perspective on a career in surgery. SurgSoc partnered with the ASMPH Public Health Council to hold small group discussions on surgical case rates in the Philippines. These classroom experiences prepare SurgSoc members when they actually practice medicine.
“It’s funny how we learn about otitis media or infection of the middle ear from lecture—how it looks, its disease process, and treatment. But until you see it for yourself, you will not recognize it the first time. Our learning then becomes enriched. SurgSoc gives a good perspective on how it’s really done in the field,” Chan said.
Fieldwork, in SurgSoc lingo, is divided into 2 parts: medical and surgical missions.
“Medical missions involve consultations, advising patients, and prescribing medications as needed,” Chan said. These are done once a month, he explained. Surgical missions, on the other hand, are conducted during 2-3 consecutive Saturdays. “Screening is done on the first visit and this is when the patients are cleared for surgery or screened out due to the prevalence of risks that may lead to complications. The second Saturday is the surgery proper where patients will undergo the procedure indicated for their particular case. The third Saturday is a day where the sutures are taken out and they receive follow up checkups.” Depending on the nature of the surgery, major procedures are conducted in partner hospitals. Some of the organizations’ partner hospitals are Martin de Porres Charity Hospital and The Medical City.
In 2015, SurgSoc had its first surgical mission held outside a hospital.
“On October 24 and November 7, 2015, our third surgical mission took place in Barangay Quisao, Pililla, Rizal at a town hall a few blocks from the San Diego de Alcala Parish. We screened in about 25 patients the first Saturday and performed the surgeries the next Saturday. Our moderator Dr. Cenon Alfonso and surgical residents from The Medical City and St. Martin de Porres Charity Hospital were with us. Student nurses from Siena College of Taytay, with their mentor, also accompanied us in this mission. We brought surgical equipment and supplies with us. The community prepared the town hall and other logistics for the mission,” Chan said.
Since its inception, SurgSoc had already performed 40 medical missions. “We organize at least 1 surgical mission per semester and another 1 during the summer break,” he said. Just this summer, some members of SurgSoc went to Bacolod to attend a medical mission treating 2000 patients.
SurgSoc, which currently has 317 members from first to third year levels, hopes to continue learning outside the classroom.
“ASMPH encourages each us to be leaders, to be at the helm. It is an opportunity for us to make a difference in people’s lives as early as this point in our medical training. Through our experiences in SurgSoc, we are able to forge meaning. Through SurgSoc and ASMPH, we experience what it’s like to see our patients. We learn about their pain and come out of it less concerned about our own,” Chan stated.