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15th Annual PDS Banaue Medical and Dermatologic Surgery Mission

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For most people, the New Year means the promise of hope, resolutions and new beginnings. For the Philippine Dermatological Society, the New Year signifies another opportunity to be of service to the underserved communities. On February 3 to 5, 2016, resident and consultant volunteers once again headed north for the 15th Annual Medical and Surgical Mission in Banaue, Ifugao. PDS Officers and the department heads of various training institutions, namely Dr. Daisy King-Ismael, Dr. Rosalina Nadela, Dr. Ma. Teresita Gabriel, Dr. Peachy Paz-Lao, Dr. Angela Lavadia, Dr. Angel Cumagun, Dr. Benedict Carpio and Dr. Karen Alabado were present to support the yearly outreach program.  PDS secretary Dr. Jasmin Jamoran effectively coordinated this year’s fruitful mission.

On its 15th year, the Banaue mission welcomed back its founder, Dr. Ida Tiongco, who, together with Dr. Arcee Grey, supervised the missioners as they provided service and free medications  to almost 400 patients at the out-patient clinic and performed over 160 procedures such as excision, biopsies, intralesional steroid injections, cryotherapy and electrocautery at the Good News Clinic. Top cases seen in the out-patient clinic were seborrheic dermatitis , fungal infections and acne. Surgical patients seen from the previous years also came back for follow-up. Indeed, thousands of lives have changed for the better since this mission started in 2001.

The success of this annual activity and its significant impact to the Ifugao people gained recognition from the American Academy of Dermatology. It was featured in the spring edition of their newsletter Aspire last year. This advocacy of the Philippine Dermatological Society truly inculcates in its members and residents-in-training the values of service and compassion that embody a bonafide DermAuthority.

The PDS would like to thank Dr. Antonio Ligot, his wife Ma’am Sylvia and the staff of the Good News Clinic for their warm hospitality.  Kudos to the all the tireless missioners for their enthusiasm and service – Mr. Alex Sarmiento, pharmacist Nina Beltran and OR nurse Josie Abat; PDS consultants Drs. Marcellano Cruz, Remy Manuel, Malou Palmero, Louella Bascos,  Johannes Dayrit,  Gina Banate, Sharon Lim, Odette Alonzo, , Frank Marcelino, Emmerson Vista,  Ayees Garcia-Mendoza, Eleanor Asuncion,  Katz Anisco,  and Jasmin Ramos-Yason; and residents from East Avenue Medical Center, Ospital ng Maynila Medical Center and Southern Philippines Medical Center.

by Ria Yulo MD, Phoebe San Diego MD, Jasmin Ramos-Yason, MD

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Ida Tiongco: Bringing Dermatology to the Mountains

High in the mountains of the Philippines’ Cordillera Central, the Ifugao people live in villages so remote that they remained largely free from Western contact until a little over 100 years ago. It is a 10-hour bus trip to the capital of Manila and 2 to 3 hours by zigzag road to the nearest dermatologist. For the past 15 years, New York dermatologist Ida Tiongco, MD, has led yearly medical missions to the region providing the Ifugao with critical dermatological care.

“We brought dermatology to the mountains,” Explains Dr. Tiongco, whose group sees about 500 patients a year and performs 100 to 200 surgeries.

They treat many diseases common in the US as well as infectious diseases like impetigo, fungal diseases and infestations like scabies and lies. Though skin cancer is not tremendously common, Dr Tiongco recalls one patient, a woman about 75 years old who was treated for a large basal cell lesion on her right cheek. “It took us almost 5 years to clear her surgically, since she did not want to go to Manila” say Dr Tiongco. “In between visits, I would send her Aldora via air parcel. Although she live quite far from the clinic – probably more than an hour by bus and some trekking – she made it a point to see us every year after, even if just say hello. She was just happy her skin cancer had been removed”

Dr. Tiongco and a small band of volunteers see patients like this one at the Good News Clinic and Hospital, a 25-bed facility in the remote village of Banaue. The clinic is led by Tony Ligot, MD a general surgeon and missionary who invites specialty clinics on a regular basis to volunteer. All the volunteers are member and residents-training of the Philippine Dermatological Society.

Over the years, the initial group of seven or eight dermatologists, residents, and other staff has grown to about 30 people, who visit the Ifugao in two shifts. Each shift spends three or four days at the hospital and joined by local staff certified to provide dermatological care. Much of the medical equipment the group uses is donated or is supplied by the volunteers themselves

The Ifugao are poor and many are lack formal education, but they are skilled carvers and farmers. Communication can be difficult, but family ties are strong and most patients have access to translation through a family member who has learned English

Tiongco is proud of the care her trips have provided and also of the education the program has given over the years to the residents in training especially in dermatologic surgery. She is also pleased that the yearly missions have become a fixture of local life. “ After 15 years, the Ifugao knows us well. When we go to the market to buy souvenirs, they recognize us and may even acknowledge us with discounts and small gifts.”


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