Two perspectives on Medipinas

Salamat, the Philippines! That’s “thank you” in Tagalog (the most widely spoken language there).

The students who formed part of Medipinas 2018 came back from the Philippines feeling very grateful for the learning experience, both as doctors and as people, afforded to them by this CEU humanitarian mission. Two of them, Raquel Carreres and Jorge Alonso, Arnal, told us about the experience.

Raquel Carreres, a fifth-year CEU Medicine student in Castellón:

“Medipinas has been an incredible experience in all areas, both as a doctor and on a personal level. When I was selected, I was really happy, because it was a dream of mine to be able to help make the world a better place.”

During the mission, we saw the good and bad sides of being a doctor. It’s wonderful to help a mother give birth and to hear the first heartbeats of a newborn child, but we’ve also seen the lifeless eyes of people who came to us with a pathology that we’d never normally see here in Spain, because we have the resources to prevent it from happening or to stop it reaching that stage.

It makes you more aware of the things you take for granted back in your comfort zone.

You also learn that the recipe for happiness is a lot simpler than we generally think.

We learnt so much as doctors too: we got used to being in an operating theatre and to putting into practice all things we’d learnt about communication skills and interaction on a human level during the 5 years of our degree. But one thing is the theory – it’s quite another to put it into practice!

Now we need to reflect on the experience. We have to process this mixture of feelings: sadness at having seen the conditions some people have to live in, but also happiness and gratitude to all the people that we’ve been able to help.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the University for making projects like this happen and Dr Belén Merck in particular for being our guide on this adventure and for teaching us so much. Not forgetting our parents, because without them we couldn’t have had an experience like this. They’ve helped us, once again, to be better people.”

Jorge Alonso Arnal, a fifth-year CEU Medicine student in Castellón:

“Medipinas exceeded my expectations. I think it couldn’t have gone better. We had great resources available to us and great support across the board. And that, together with how motivated we were and our willingness to work hard, led to excellent results.

As doctors, we’ve strengthened our knowledge and skills, losing our fears and also realizing that there’s no limit to what medicine is. We have to keep on educating and training ourselves to be as good as we can be.

This experience makes you grow as a person and brings out the most humane side of you. There were some really hard days, days when many of us were crying. Sometimes we saw that we were too late and that there was nothing more to be done for a patient, when the problem they had would have been resolved long before back home with the resources available to us.

We’ve seen stages of diseases that you only see in textbooks back home, things that we never imagined we’d ever see, as in our hospitals these diseases are diagnosed at an early stage and not allowed to reach those stages of development. It’s an absolute gut punch to see that and it makes you think how privileged we are to live where we live. But, at the end of the first week, you learn that you have to keep going, to be strong and to be happy to do the work we do.

Without Dr Merck, this mission would have been impossible. She’s put so much work into ensuring that the mission went ahead, raising money from everywhere to ensure we could help as many people as possible. You have to bear in mind that, to diagnose many of the things we saw, you need proper diagnostic tests and that costs a lot of money.

When I got back home to Spain, I realized that I’d got so much more out of it than I’d given. The people in the Philippines are really thankful for us being there and the smile they give you after each operation absolutely fills you with happiness.”

The writers of the Medicine blog and the whole University would like to thank Raquel and Jorge for telling us about their experience and also the whole Medipinas team for doing such great work, year after year. We’re proud of you.

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