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British-based Learning with an International Perspective

Alumni Grant - Medical Elective 2016 in the Philippines

David (class of 2009) received an Alumni Grant to support his ‘medical elective’ which is a 10-week protected block that started immediately after he finished his penultimate year of medicine at King’s College London. 

During this time medical students are strongly encouraged to visit less economically developed countries to give back. David spent the first half of his elective in islands off Manila in the Philippines.

David reports:

Every medical student is encouraged to spend a period of time overseas experiencing different healthcare systems, where medical and cultural beliefs make practicing an entirely different and challenging experience. This year I was fortunately enough to be awarded the Alumni Grant to travel to the island of Palawan, in the Philippines to bring healthcare to those who need it most. I spent over a month working around the Roxas area of Palawan, a remote and beautiful place. The area had limited running water and electricity was only available for certain periods of the day, which made living and working there a totally different experience.

During the weeks I was based at a small 10 bed hospital in Roxas. This work ranged from outpatient clinics to hospital admissions. The hospital only has one fulltime doctor so they were relieved to have the extra hands to help out. Just before arriving the local area had a typhoid outbreak, a very serious illness which preoccupied much of my time during the weeks. With limited beds and resources, treating patients required around the clock care. One example of this, was the defibrillator dated back to 1981! The strong religious beliefs held by many Filipinos meant patients commonly presented very late, often complicating simple illnesses.

At the weekends I would join medical missions. These missions would visit some of the local tribes, far from any villages or roads, to people who may never have seen a doctor before. One of the tribes we visited was up in the mountains and we ended up walking along a river for 18kilometers to bring them necessary medicines. Although this was extremely rewarding work, the walk back the next day was gruelling. Trying to unravel the diagnosis from patients who have not seen a doctor their entire lives made for interesting and challenging work. Where the symptoms of one illness ended and the next started made it difficult work and we would work night and day until all the patients had been seen.

This once in a lifetime trip has given me a wealth of hands on experience and exposure to tropical illnesses that are vital in developing a well-rounded doctor. Thank you Tanglin!

The Alumni Grant is a matching grant awarded to our Tanglin graduates within 18 months after graduation. The grant is funded by the TTS Foundation. Find out more about the Alumni grant via the Alumni website or send an email to our Alumni Manager - Mrs Nellie Rogers.