The Aloha Medical Mission grew out of a personal struggle by Dr. Ernesto Espaldon, a Filipino-American plastic surgeon now practicing in Guam. On a visit to his native island of Mindanao, Philippines in 1969, he found a desperate lack of medical care for the poor. Espaldon offered his medical services for free. Since then, he and his wife Leticia, an anesthesiologist, have returned each year to do reconstructive and corrective surgery without charge.
Members of the Philippine Medical Association of Hawaii learned of this work and established the first Aloha Medical Mission to the Philippines in 1983. Seven doctors flew from Honolulu to Bicol where for 10 days, they treated a variety of illnesses for which no medical care was available. The doctors returned home saddened, yet inspired. Immediately, they began planning their next trip. These trips are now annual expeditions with over 100 volunteer doctors, dentists, nurses, and lay people traveling to the Philippines and other countries in Asia and the South Pacific. A large group of volunteers goes annually to selected sites in the Philippines near the end of November. In 1991, a group traveled to Nanchang, China for an educational exchange week. In 1993, both Vietnam and Vanuatu hosted AMM teams, treating patients who would otherwise not receive medical care. Volunteers are currently working on details for trips to Bangladesh, Laos, and other future sites.
The 17 AMM board of directors, elected by members, continue to search for future sites in need of medical help. The number of missions launched, and their location, is unlimited, occurring through the vision and hard work of individual volunteers.
The main objective of the newly established AMM/BHC is to provide free interim primary health care to the homeless clients of the Institute for Human Services (IHS) and to continue to carry on services to patients that were previously provided by Bayanihan Health Services Clinic at St. Theresa’s Church. These patients are usually newly arrived immigrants who have not obtained a job or qualified for any type of government assistance as well as other uninsured destitute people in our community. We also provide service to people who will require pre-employment physical examinations as well as immunizations to children.
The intent of the clinic is not to compete with other existing health care providers. It is also not a referral center for specialty care, nor will it handle any serious traumatic or acute emergency cases. This is not an emergency room.
This clinic is the only 100% free clinic in Hawaii rendering medical and dental service to the poor and underprivileged. Our clinic also has the distinction of being run by volunteers so that we will be relying upon volunteers for their compassion and dedication to serve those needy in our community.
Since its July 31, 1995 opening, we have seen approximately 2,200 patients and during 1996, the clinic at IHS served 2,203 patients, with a total of 5,038 visits, at a cost of approximately $19.85 per visit. Thanks to our volunteer doctors, nurses and lay people, we are able to make optimum use of the clinic’s scarce health care dollars. The most common problems seen at the clinic this past year were skin conditions (impetigo, infected sores, herpes, etc.), general infections (such as infected lacerations), and respiratory problems (including flu and bronchitis). We are also offering much needed dental care once or twice a week, depending on our dentists’ schedules. Seven dentists, including a periodontist, currently help at the clinic. Just volunteering once a month helps our community tremendously. Aloha Medical Mission volunteers have always gotten great satisfaction from traveling to other countries to offer their professional services, but working in the IHS clinic location enables them to help in their own community and provide a service that these people without health care would not otherwise receive. However, volunteers are still needed – particularly doctors, nurses, and pharmacists to volunteer from 5 to 7p.m. and lay people to help out during the day. Tell your colleagues and friends to give us a call. With the changes in the welfare system, more and more people are going to need our services.
1997 Fundraising – We All Need To Help! We know a lot of volunteers that dedicate their time and energy to AMM and we appreciate it very much. But in order to continue providing missions to the Philippines, Vietnam and Bangladesh, and continue to provide our own community with a free clinic for those without medical insurance, we need to continue to fund raise each year. We would appreciate any amount you can contribute because it will help us to continue our efforts to bring medical care to those in need. If you or some one you know would like to help us by making a donation, please e-mail Aloha Medical Mission at firstname.lastname@example.org. We appreciate all of your support! Mahalo.
We need doctors of all specialties and nurses on the upcoming mission to Philippines and donations if any from supporters.
The Aloha Medical Mission is always searching for donated medical supplies. We ship large items such as exam tables and wheelchairs via container ship to the Philippines where they are stored in a warehouse for future use.
We always need drug samples of antibiotics, analgesics, and vitamins. Long-term-treatment medications, such as those for chronic hypertension, are not useful since most patients have little, if any, follow-up care. Also, we cannot accept drugs past their expiration dates. We realize most of these drugs are still good. However, most of our patients do not believe this is so, feeling strongly that expired drugs have gone bad.
Suture is one item always in short supply. We greatly appreciate donations of this expensive material, crucial for all major and minor surgical cases. Sterile gloves are also a must.
American hospitals and clinics throw away a shocking amount of usable medical supplies. Many AMM volunteers have created systems in their workplace to save such supplies. Due to high shipping costs, disposable sheets and OR gowns are not useful. Just about everything else is.
WE NEED NEW PLACES TO GO
If you have been to, or know of, a place where people need medical care and the community is willing to host volunteers, call us. It’s crucial that local medical workers invite us and are willing to work with us.
AMM volunteers do not rush in and take over existing systems. We come by invitation only and work in cooperation with local doctors and nurses. Teaching is ongoing during all trips.
WE NEED MORE PEOPLE WITH DIVERSE SKILLS
The Aloha Medical Mission needs helpers with non-medical backgrounds to help with logistics, organization and managerial work. Doctors offices and hospitals have supplies to donate but often have neither the means nor the time to deliver them. Sometimes, we have no place to deliver supplies to, and no inventory system once we have them.
Some organizations on the mainland actually collect medical supplies and medicines just for groups like ours. We need volunteers to find these organizations for us and find how we qualify.
Teaching is a large part of our medical trips. We need people to teach hygiene and good health habits. Radiologists can teach how to read ultrasounds. Engineers can help design clean drinking water systems and sanitary toilets.
The work AMM volunteers can do is nearly unlimited for people with compassion, energy and imagination.