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TCU students amazed at Medical Mission’s efficacy

July 18, 2019 | Jonas Trinidad

TCU medical student Li Pei-tong (right) assists a local TIMA surgeon in removing the cyst from one of her patients. During the medical mission, TCU medical students were tasked with assistant roles and they performed them with dedication. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

Story Highlights

  • Hundreds of impoverished Filipinos in Navotas City sought and received free medical help courtesy of Tzu Chi Philippines’ 240th Medical Mission on July 16. It catered to a total of 732 patients across the departments of ophthalmology, minor surgery, dermatology, dentistry, and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

  • The delegation of medical students and professors from Tzu Chi University in Taiwan augmented the local volunteers’ ranks. Their exposure to such an environment would challenge all that they know about providing medical care.


Hundreds of impoverished Filipinos in Navotas City sought and received free medical help courtesy of Tzu Chi Philippines’ 240th Medical Mission on July 16.

The San Lorenzo Ruiz and Companion Martyrs Parish Church in Dagat-Dagatan swelled with 732 patients across the departments of dentistry, minor surgery, dermatology, ophthalmology, and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Fr. Larry Singian, O.P., Tzu Chi’s liaison in the parish church, coordinated the mission one last time, as he will be reassigned to a teaching post at the University of Santo Tomas Central Seminary.

“I will miss this very much. In fact, I will be leaving this with a heavy heart because I learned to love this work, and I’ve learned to love to work with Tzu Chi. I’ve seen how working together we can do so much,” said Singian, who has coordinated Tzu Chi’s medical missions in the church for almost a decade.

Supplementing the ranks of local Tzu Chi volunteers and volunteer doctors, are medical students and staff of Tzu Chi University (TCU) in Taiwan. The delegation of 29 students and 5 teachers and volunteers are in the Philippines as part of the school’s annual overseas outreach, exposing the students to environments outside Taiwan to better understand the need to help people.

While limited to tasks like fetching instruments and dispensing medicine, the students performed their tasks with diligence. This experience has proven invaluable to them, and they were astounded at the fact that appropriate medical care can be provided in a non-hospital environment.

“This has been very interesting for me, considering that this isn’t your typical environment to do surgery and yet they’re able to do it effectively. They’re very meticulous in sanitizing instruments and the environment. I can tell they’re serious in their jobs,” explained Tzu Chi Youth member Fang Jing-ci.

“I realized that even minor surgery needs many people to help care for patients,” said medical student Li Pei-tong.

“I’ve joined many medical missions but this is my first time in minor surgery. It’s also my first time to see so many instruments used. This setup is useful in the aftermath of a disaster, as even volunteers could help get the right instruments,” said medical student Chien Yi-lin.

Dr. Robert Sy, a surgeon with the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA), explained to the students that the surgical instruments are color-coded for convenience. He believes that this hands-on experience is an important factor in the students’ medical education.

“The importance of letting the students have a hands-on experience, in spite of the fact that they have not yet graduated, is so that they will feel like it is a bonding way before they reach their graduation. When they are exposed to this kind of environment, they will be able to relate to what the professor is teaching because they have been exposed to it,” Sy explained.

More than medical knowhow, the students in the medical mission also learned how to be more compassionate to the people they’re helping. Upon realizing that a dental patient was trembling while undergoing extraction, TCU nursing student Hung Hsiu-min held her hand to help ease her anxiety. Hung was instantly reminded of the time her mother would do the same whenever she ended up in the dentist’s chair.

“The moments of injecting the anesthesia and pulling the tooth are the scariest. So, I held [the patient’s] hand at those moments to ease her nervousness. It also helped that the dentist was friendly and helped the patient relax, even explaining to her what needs to be done,” Hung said.

  • On the morning of July 16, residents around San Lorenzo Ruiz and Companion Martyrs Parish Church trooped to the church to seek free medical care from Tzu Chi medical mission. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Fr. Larry Singian, O.P. keeps himself busy by picking up garbage and reminding people to dispose of their waste properly. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • TIMA surgeon Dr. Robert Sy teaches the TCU medical students the different kinds of surgical instruments and their uses. He also explained that each tool is color-coded so that even those with little or no medical knowledge can know which tool to get. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • TCU medical students Li Pei-tong (far left) and Chien Yi-lin (second from left) watch a TIMA surgeon remove a cyst from one of his patients. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • A Tzu Chi volunteer teaches the Taiwanese students on how to properly dispense medicine. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Tzu Chi Youth member Fang Jing-ci keeps the forceps steady for a TIMA surgeon as they finally remove this patient's cyst. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Yang Jen-hung, dean of the TCU College of Medicine, inspects a child's rashes, a fairly common skin problem in the slums of Dagat-Dagatan. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Seeing the patient trembling in fear, TCU nursing student Hung Hsiu-min (right) holds her hand to ease her anxiety. She recalled that it's what her mother would do. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • TIMA ophthalmologist Dr. Antonio Say shows a TCU medical student cholesterol deposits on a patient's eyelids. Such deposits signal a serious medical condition. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】