This article appears in SunStar Newspaper print and online editions on Sept. 10, 2017
Serving Beyond Hospital Walls
A few weeks ago, a group of dedicated doctors personally delivered care packages to our soldiers in war-torn Marawi. They bravely made their way to no man’s land, even if most of the townsfolk have fled to escape the harsh threat.
These courageous men and women are the officers of MOMS, who work hard to see the vision of their “MOMS Cares” program come alive. Nope, this doesn’t pertain to your momma, though the name does have a nice ring to it because, really, all moms do care!
MOMS is actually an organization of doctors who believe that giving the best medical care does not merely happen in the four walls of the hospital. They promote compassionate care encompassing health management and education of patients, their families, and the community. By taking pride in serving the community, especially those who belong to the marginalized sector, members of MOMS believe they can elevate quality of life.
MOMS @ 70
I was able to chat with Dr. Mitchel “Mitch” Gonzalez, my friend who is currently the group’s president. He explained, “Our name actually stands for Misamis Oriental Medical Society (MOMS), which is a component society of the Philippine Medical Association. The name of our society coincidentally became that caring motherly name.”
MOMS recently celebrated 70 years of excellence with a gathering at Mallberry Suites. Doc Mitch said, “We were established back in 1947, two years after Word War II ended, for the main purpose of delivering medical services to the local people who were suffering from a range of diseases brought about by that war. From a dozen general practitioners at that time, we are now composed of 8 specialty societies with over a thousand members.”
I asked him how the physician members manage to make time for their socio-civic endeavors, when a medical practitioner’s day is already filled with clinic hours, rounds, surgery requirements, and the like. He candidly replied, “It can really get busy in the hospital and some of us cannot afford to leave the confines of a medical center. However, there are thousands of people who do not have access to these facilities. That motivates us to encourage every doctor to do their part to treat the less fortunate and find time to visit indigenous areas. The best method of serving these areas is by disseminating information on preventing disease.”
Doc Mitch noted that their drive for Marawi started with the same platform. Moreover, because some members of MOMS had hailed from there or some had to evacuate and leave their thriving practices, they felt the strong need to address the issue and to make a difference.
He narrated: “When the war started, our Society was concerned about the influx of evacuees into CDO. Left without proper shelter and no means of providing themselves with basic needs, we decided to raise awareness in our community. This resulted to a prompt response coming from friends and family not only from Mindanao, but donations also came from Luzon and Visayas.”
So far, the society has been able to serve evacuation centers in: Macabalan, CDO; Steeltown, Iligan; and Pantar, Lanao Del Norte. On top of that, they sent aid to wounded soldiers in Camp Evangelista Station Hospital. Doc Mitch emphasized that the success of the program was through everyone’s collective efforts, and he is thankful to those who extended help.
Marching into Marawi
Doc Mitch and his co-officers made it into the City Hall of Marawi, through proper coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to distribute relief goods to the soldiers stationed in the area. These courageous warriors put their lives on the line so citizens can sleep soundly at night. Freedom is not really free, coming with a high cost…life.
Thus, it was impossible for MOMS to discount the soldiers’ efforts. Doc Mitch said, “Donors were also really concerned about the welfare of our soldiers, hence relief goods were sent to them. It is an overwhelming experience to see how Filipinos help each other every time disastrous events hit our nation.”
He added, “The packs for the soldiers included not only food and hygiene kits but also gratitude letters from the children of Cagayan De Oro. According to the soldiers, these motivational letters from children were the best part of our donations.”
Art of Medicine
The MOMS group is definitely in good hands with Doc Mitch at the helm. He is a migrant of Mindanao, but he has the heart to serve Minadanaoans to the best of his abilities. He moved to this region to practice Neurosurgery in Cagayan and Bukidnon. He said, “ personally find it more fulfilling to be part of developing a medical specialty in the rural areas.”
He noted that they have a lot of forthcoming projects and community activities. This September 11, Monday, he invites everyone to support their motorcade activity: “MOMS Condemns Violence against Doctors.” This is in support of Dr. Zaynab Abejuela, an endocrinologist who was wounded in a gun attack by unidentified perpetrators riding a motorcycle. She was on her way home from visiting patients at Maria Reyna-XU Hospital when she was shot.
Doc Mitch said: “Assembly will be at the Rotunda (new bridge) at 9am. We have invited media people to be with us on this day. We also want to invite your family and friends to join us!”
For more information on their programs, check “MOMS Cares” Facebook page with the same name. Clearly, the practice of medicine is not just a science but also an art; with its foundation rooted on service, compassion, and above all else, love.
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